OPINION: Normally, in kids' rugby, one really good individual can make a world of difference.
The coach is probably going to play him at No8 or halfback and he will be required to have the ball in his hands as often as possible. It's the golden rule of school rugby.
However, the once-mighty Crusaders have now taken this to a new level, being unable to win without their superstar No8 Kieran Read.
He has been so influential for the Crusaders that without him they are lacking the firepower to crash through defences, smash over the attackers, and provide the correct plays at the crucial times. His influence over any game he plays has reached such heights that the Crusaders without him do not look capable of winning the Super Rugby competition.
Add to the package that the refereeing appears to be stricter this season, and fairer decisions are being made across the board, and the Crusaders have not had the leeway of previous seasons.
All in all, the situation created has seen the growth of a relatively ungracious group, with the normally even-tempered Todd Blackadder now finding excuses, and New Zealand's greatest leader finding it really difficult to say anything positive about the opposition.
OK, it's tough to lose when there is so much expectation placed on the group based on their high- quality performances over many seasons, but let's remember it was 2008 when the Crusaders last won the then-Super 14.
The first signs of a lack of conviction and confidence are appearing from the leaders. Has their game developed? Are they leading the way in innovation? Or is this the same group playing the same way and everyone else is catching up?
On the other hand, the jubilant Hurricanes, brilliantly led by Conrad Smith and directed around the park by Beauden Barrett, are a team under no real pressure or expectation, and are able to enjoy the moment.
This has been an incredible success story for Mark Hammett and the group, and only when they sit down to plan for next year will any sort of pressure start to emerge.
The Hurricanes' supporters, and no doubt the inner sanctum, will be demanding an even better season of results. Whether they can keep "rugby" in context will be a decisive factor in how they perform.
Only a really confident group is able to stay relaxed and calm whilst performing with intensity and accuracy and the one team that has been provided with this edge in 2012 have been the Chiefs under their new management group.
Their belief has been growing since week two when they defeated the Blues and has risen to such an extent that they are topping the table.
The question for Dave Rennie and company is: have they built enough confidence to maintain their mojo and be contenders for the title?
It is a difficult one to answer. There are a lot of individuals in this group who are prone to error and they wouldn't want too many to be shown up on the same day.
The real pressure is now emerging and the question on everyone's lips is does New Zealand have a franchise with enough depth of talent to win the Super Rugby title?
Last season it was the Reds. The previous two seasons it was the Bulls. You sort of get the feeling that maybe once again the title may go overseas. That is, of course, unless Read emerges from his injuries and leads the charge of the Crusaders, or the Chiefs have matured sufficiently to stay calm under pressure.It would be nice to have the trophy back in New Zealand.
Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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