Crusaders rediscover ruthless edge in SA

JUSTIN MARSHALL
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2013
Crusaders
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STUNNING CRUSADERS: A remarkable defensive effort ensured the Crusaders upset the Stormers 19-14 in Cape Town this morning.

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OPINION: Consider yourself warned - the Crusaders have got their mojo back, and without the help of some of their biggest guns.

Yesterday's winning performance against the Stormers was as ruthless and clinical a performance as I've seen from this remarkable franchise.

And it was achieved without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, giving lie to the claim the Crusaders do not have a future without the inspirational pair.

Stormers captain Jean de Villers blamed his team for missed tackles, mistakes and set piece inadequacy. What wasn't so readily acknowledged was a lot of it wasn't entirely the Stormers' fault. They were put under such pressure by the Crusaders that those errors were all forced.

That was evident in the second half when the Crusaders just ripped into the Stormers.

Time and again, they were right up in the faces of the Stormers, driving them back in defence in relentless fashion. It was a sustained defensive performance that won them the game.

But the defensive effort was only half the story. The Crusaders showed amazing discipline by retaining the ball countless times over 15-plus phases. And for the final three minutes when the Stormers were lashing the tryline with wave after wave of attacks, the Crusaders simply stepped forward and smacked them over.

I watched the game in my hotel room in Wellington after calling the Hurricanes match and when that final whistle went I felt proud to have once worn the jersey these young gladiators showed such pride in. I believe that win was a turning point.

Coach Todd Blackadder's reaction at fulltime tells me he thinks the same way.

Now every other team in this competition knows they are not coming, they have arrived.

On another subject, I have a bone to pick with Cooper Vuna.

In sporting team environments, it's easy to get frustrated and angry with people who work alongside you.

And no doubt Vuna was frustrated and angry with Kurtley Beale. But the incident that happened between the pair on the team bus should have stayed there.

Whenever you have an issue in a team situation, the first thing you have to do is assess the situation and gather all the important information.

There is nothing worse than somebody racing off and telling the world first. Tweeting is there for all the world to see and for Vuna to jump the gun and tell the public about the incident is just plain stupid.

It smacks of a person who craves attention and puts himself before the team. You cannot understate the impact that can have on a franchise.

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I contrast Vuna's attitude to my old team-mate at the Crusaders, Matt Sexton.

I spoke to Matt before the kick-off of his Kings' clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday.

I think Matt is doing a damn good job with the fledgling South African franchise with very little support.

He has given up a lot to coach this team and I really hope they survive and actually develop.

I asked Matt how things were going over in Port Elizabeth. His response was to say the role was challenging, but I could tell he was biting his lip and wanting to say more.

But he's a guy who knows there is a time and place for everything and that critical words in this circumstance were only going to hinder his players, not help them.

That in itself is a lesson for Cooper Vuna.

- The Press

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