'Tackle or die' time for Crusaders

BY RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2009
DAVID HALLET/The Press
GET ON WITH IT: Former All Black Fergie McCormick says the Crusaders have to 'take the game by the scruff of the neck'.

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Former All Black and Canterbury tough nut Fergie McCormick has some straight-shooting advice for the out-of-sorts Crusaders.

"We just have to take the game by the scruff of the neck, use the flair we have got and just bloody well get on with it," says McCormick.

Like most other supporters, McCormick, who played 44 matches for the All Blacks and 222 for Canterbury between 1958 and 1975, has been frustrated by the Crusaders' performances this season.

After just one win and a draw in the opening five matches their chances of defending their Super 14 crown are fast diminishing.

Rather than point the finger at new head coach Todd Blackadder, who has had to constantly rejig his team because of injuries, McCormick said the players needed to remedy the problem of why their basic skills deserted them at crucial moments.

Shoddy passing, poor handling and wayward kicks cost the Crusaders dearly in their 23-all draw with the Western Force last Saturday.

"That's the only chance you get between winning and losing a game and some of our guys have to take note of themselves," McCormick said.

"They can't point the finger at the coaches, they have to look in the mirror and point the finger at themselves because they are the ones to blame."

Having kicked a world record 24 points against Wales in 1969, McCormick knows a few things about the pressure of shooting for goal and was bemused by the low percentages recorded by Stephen Brett and Colin Slade.

Brett, who replaced Slade at first five-eighth against the Force, also took over the kicking duties but missed five attempts up to 13 points went begging.

"Everyone goes on about goal kicking. In our day if we missed two goals in a test we got dropped. Easy as that. These guys miss a few...

"A couple of those conversions on Saturday would have helped."

The Crusaders will meet the Waratahs, who suffered their first loss of the season to the Brumbies last weekend, in Sydney on Saturday night and McCormick urged them to employ the attacking mindset they used in the final quarter of the 30-24 loss to the Hurricanes on February 27.

"Get out and play some rugby.

"All those guys out there have great instincts and natural flair. When we took the game to the Hurricanes they were found wanting. Why don't we start taking on a bit of that attitude? Take the game to a few of these guys. We have nothing to lose now."

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Despite the poor start to the season, the Crusaders are only six points adrift of the fourth-placed Blues and a win against the Waratahs would provide much-needed confidence before they meet South African teams, the Stormers and Bulls, in Christchurch.

"I think we are good enough to come back [and qualify for the finals] but I saw some of those South African teams play and if we don't make that first tackle we are dead," McCormick said.

- The Press

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