Crusaders tactics backed by coach Dave Hewett

Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014
Dave Hewett
FRONT EIGHT POWER: Dave Hewett talks to the Crusaders forward pack before they head into battle.

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The Sharks disaster isn't expected to scare the Crusaders coaches into scrapping their conservative game plan for Saturday night's match against the Highlanders.

Heavy criticism has been showered on the Crusaders following last weekend's 30-25 loss against a 14-man Sharks side, who went down to 13 men in the second half, but assistant coach Dave Hewett remains unrepentant.

Even All Blacks coach Steve Hansen weighed in, stating the Crusaders blew a golden chance by refusing to reduce their kick-count against the depleted defence.

Hewett defended his team, noting the Crusaders were wary of Frans Steyn's prolific goal kicking ability.

"Our opinion was that was the best one [game plan] to go into the Sharks," Hewett said.

"One thing you don't want to do is give Francois Steyn opportunities to kick inside your 60m, essentially. And we did that through silly mistakes."

Had they executed their game plan correctly the Crusaders believed any errors in the Sharks half could have been negated by pressuring their scrums and lineouts.

Even after Jean Deysel was red carded for stomping Jordan Taufua in the 16th minute, the Crusaders saw no reason to rejig their attack.

"And we would have done that regardless of them being a man down or not," Hewett emphasised.

"I think the plan was right. It just wasn't executed to the level that we needed."

Hansen used the defeat as an example of why teams need to adapt on the field.

"Circumstances changed the way they should have played and they didn't adapt to that and that's something we [the All Blacks] as a team have to be really good at and there are good lessons there for all the sides."

The Crusaders decision to kick for goal instead of opting for a lineout, when the Sharks were down to 13 men, has also been questioned by frustrated fans.

Hewett supported captain Ryan Crotty's decision to instruct Colin Slade to kick for goal, which put the Crusaders in front, saying they were building pressure.

He confirmed the coaches send instructions to the players during games but said the players are entitled to ignore them.

"There are those messages going out but you have to realise the players on the field are the ones who have the feeling for the game," Hewett said.

"Coaches are slightly removed. Me and my role, being on the sideline - you have that hybrid position.

"We do give them information to say ‘here is an option'.

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"But they are the ones that make the final call and we will back what they say."

Which brings us to the Highlanders fixture in Dunedin.

The Crusaders will be wary of being seen as a one-trick pony but Hewett wasn't worried about other sides being able to work them out too easily.

Having recorded five consecutive wins before the Sharks loss suggests little will change.

"I think there is elements of everyone's game plan that could be viewed as predictable because that's how that team plays," Hewett noted.

Whether No 8 and captain Kieran Read, who hasn't played since April 19 because of concussion, will play the Highlanders will be decided within the next few days.

- The Press

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