Crusaders must counter moving maul - Crockett

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
Sharks maul
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

ROLLING ON: Sharks lock Stephan Lewies (centre) calls out to referee Rohan Hoffman as he gets hoisted in this driving maul against the Crusaders in mid-May at AMI Stadium.

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Wyatt Crockett sounds like a physics teacher as tries to de-mystify the complicated task of demolishing the Sharks' mauls.

Few things are as difficult to stop as a turbo-charged lineout drive, yet Crockett emphasises that if the Crusaders' forwards are organised they should fear little in Saturday night's Super Rugby semifinal at AMI Stadium.

Splintering a maul, usually off a lineout, requires technique and a pinch of luck, as well as a referee who can spot a dodgy truck-and-trailer routine.

The Sharks' didn't just fire a warning shot at the Crusaders with their impressive mauling in last weekend's qualifying final against the Highlanders in Durban: it was the equivalent of a cannon going off.

"You have to be disciplined when you do defend against it. The mindset has to be to collectively stop it," loosehead prop Crocket says. "Because once they get momentum it's bloody hard to stop."

Mauling has become more frequent in recent weeks and the Crusaders used it to set up tries for Matt Todd (twice) and Corey Flynn against the Highlanders on July 12.

While the freezing weather in Christchurch will have the Sharks shivering, the reality is that being removed from sub-tropical Durban won't knock them off their game.

Their penchant for keeping the ball close to their big pack means the cold and slippery conditions should suit their style, something the Crusaders discovered when they lost 30-25 to the South Africans on May 17. The booming boot of Frans Steyn will create chances to contest their opponents' lineout throws and get their drives going.

But having experienced men like Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Matt Todd and Crockett should mean there is no chance of the New Zealanders' being surprised by the Sharks get the tactic, which will probably involve flanker Marcell Coetzee carrying the ball at the boot, organised.

"You also have to have a couple of men standing on each side in case they do a wee eight-nine play off the tail of the maul. You need to have that shored-up," Crockett said when explaining the defensive duties required.

"The rest of us just have to get nice and low and go hard to try to stop the thing. You can do it. But the big thing with stopping it is getting in there nice and early before they get any momentum."

Referee Glen Jackson will be responsible for ruling on this controversial part of the game. Some coaches state a moving maul should be banished from the IRB's law book, believing it is little more than legalised obstruction.

Often ball carriers at the back have profited from slack officials not calling them for binding incorrectly and Jackson may be reminded of this when he meets respective coaches Todd Blackadder and Jake White for a pre-match coffee this week.

For the first time since the 15-team format was introduced in 2011 the Crusaders were able to take break last week. Rather than play in a qualifying final they were able to relax, courtesy of finishing second on the log.

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For Kieran Read, Andy Ellis and Crockett that meant they could take their families to the Hanmer Springs resort for a soak in the hot pools after their inter-squad game last Friday.

Later they retired to Corey Flynn's pub in the resort town for a meal and despite being on a break, not talking about the semis was impossible. Injured lock Luke Romano also travelled with his team-mates.

"He is the only one without kids, so he was looking after them for us," Crockett remarked.

- The Press

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