Crusaders eye a clean sweep in South Africa

Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014
Warren Whitley
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CLINICAL TACKLE: Lions No 8 Warren Whitley is picked up and dumped by Crusaders flankers Matt Todd (obscured) and George Whitelock.

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The expected return of Kieran Read could prove the vital ingredient that helps the Crusaders put an end to their ropey record in South Africa.

Yesterday morning's 28-7 win over the Lions in Johannesburg kept the Crusaders in touch with the Super Rugby log leaders but it would mean little if they get rolled by the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

With a knee injury ruling out Luke Whitelock, Read's arrival couldn't be more timely.

The Crusaders haven't recorded a clean-sweep in the republic since 2008 and often fail in their second tour match.

Concussion prevented No 8 Read playing at Ellis Park but Blackadder was confident his captain would be fit to meet a Cheetahs side which must be seething after it drew 43-43 with the Chiefs in the Free State capital.

"He's [Read] got a couple of tests the doctor has to take him through but he is feeling really good and back to normal," Blackadder said. "I'm pretty certain he will be right for next week."

Blackadder was uncertain how long Whitelock, who started at No 8, would be out but said he was no chance to face the Cheetahs.

It is hoped first five-eighth Colin Slade, who kicked three of his five shots at goal before leaving the field with a head injury, would make a swift recovery. Although the dazed Slade looked in rough shape when he left the field Blackadder said the playmaker seemed fine after the game but will need pass a medical.

Immediately after the match the team spoke about its shoddy record in Africa.

"The guys brought it up in the changing room themselves," Blackadder said. "We have got to go to Bloemfontein, a place we haven't played that well at in the past. We will go there with a lot of confidence and we have got to be prepared to attack."

Stand-in captain Ryan Crotty, one of his side's best, scored the Crusaders' first try and halfback Andy Ellis and centre Kieron Fonotia added the balance.

For long periods, especially in the first half when the Crusaders led 6-0, it was a dull encounter as both sides made handling errors.

The Lions, despite having a clean slate at home this season, never deserved to win this; the Crusaders' scrum was superior, they negated their opponents' rolling mauls and while it would be too optimistic to say their attack is firing they showed more energy and were direct.

Blackadder is likely to retain his new midfield pairing of Crotty and Fonotia, which gives his point of attack more bulk, and he would no doubt like to see wing Nemani Nadolo get more involved against the Cheetahs.

The strategy of refusing to use the ball inside their own half paid dividends.

Lions' kicking ace Marnitz Boshoff wasn't able to take his first penalty attempt until the 50th minute and the Crusaders' discipline was reasonably sound.

Being the first New Zealand team to win in South Africa this season should also create a surge in confidence.

"We won't underestimate the significance of tonight," Blackadder said. "I feel that, psychologically, we have turned the corner and we need to go forward."

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