Gibson downplays Crusaders' inside knowledge
Daryl Gibson wasn't about to dig himself into a hole despite being described as a 'mole', the not-so-secret weapon that could undermine the Crusaders' quest for an eighth Super Rugby title in Sydney on Saturday.
Once the Waratahs advanced to their first final on home soil, Gibson, the former All Black midfielder who won four championships with the Crusaders between 1998 and 2002, was identified as an ideal source of information on how to stop his former team from claiming their first crown since 2008.
The Waratahs' attack coach might have been flattered by the description though, publicly at least, he wasn't about to overplay the usefulness of his time with the competition's most successful franchise as a player, and then assistant on Todd Blackadder's staff.
Gibson left that role at the end of 2012 when his core role was amended from attack coach to defence, a designation that coincided with interest from incoming Waratahs' coach Michael Cheika.
He arrived in Sydney for the 2013 season with his wife and four children but without, apparently, a significant amount of intellectual property from the Crusaders headquarters at Rugby Park despite four campaigns in the management team.
''I had a little giggle at that, apart from knowing what Toddy has in his coffee, I know no more than any other coach who studies video tape,'' he said, despite halfback Nick Phipps' belief that Gibson had inside knowledge.
''In terms of insights, I couldn't really share a great deal.''
Gibson felt the Crusaders strengths were already well known, and again evident as they recovered from their customary slow start - and mid-season inconsistency - to make a final series for the 13th consecutive year.
''They're scrapped through and they're really start to hit some form now. They've done that through adapting their tactics every game.''
Gibson said it was no surprise the Crusaders had built momentum at the back end of a season where Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Dan Carter are finally operating in tandem.
Naturally Carter would exert a significant influence in just his fifth game of the season, as his predecessor Andrew Mehrtens invariably did when Gibson played outside him.
''With Dan, he's obviously an outstanding player. He also gives them a left foot, right foot combination and in the last two or three games with him back in the side they're far more adventurous and far more attacking.''
That expansiveness was obviously facilitated by a solid platform and Gibson realised the set piece would be targeted as the free-running Waratahs' Achilles heel.
''You'll see a lot of pressure at the set piece. They don't play a lot of rugby in their territory so they'll try and play a territory game.''
Gibson doubted the Crusaders would be fazed by playing at ANZ Stadium, a venue where the All Blacks have not lost since Robbie Deans' first Bledisloe Cup test as Wallabies coach in 2008.
A member of the three-peat winning side in Canberra in 2000 - the only team to win a final outside of their home country - Gibson said the Crusaders would not be stressed by trying to repeat that feat despite Blackadder's tenure featuring semifinal losses in Pretoria and Hamilton plus the 2011 decider in Brisbane.
The 39-year-old still has fond memories of that icy night at Bruce Stadium where the Crusaders pipped the top qualifying Brumbies 20-19 thanks to a late Mehrtens penalty.
Asked what qualities were necessary to win away from home, Gibson replied: ''It goes back to the mindset of New Zealanders. We like a challenge.
''A lot of people said you couldn't win Super Rugby away from home. I think if you challenge New Zealanders around that sort of stuff they'll say 'Why not?' and they'll be the first.
''I guess they'll look at this challenge in the same manner.''
''I look back to 2011 with the (Christchurch) earthquake and the adversity we suffered through there
''We looked at that whole year as a huge challenge, just as they will see coming to Sydney playing against a team that's in very good form.''
Gibson was confident a sequence of eight straight wins - and a resilient defensive performance against the Brumbies last Saturday - would led to the Waratahs first title following losses to the Crusaders in 2005 and 2008.
''I think we've been very consistent this year with attack and defence, we've proven ourselves.
''We haven't over stated and under delivered. We've set out early on 'this is how we want to play the game', we've stuck to that and really tried to shape our identity and improve a little bit every day.''
And if the Waratahs do fall at the final hurdle again, the outcome won't sour an enriching experience for Gibson, who was sought out by Cheika when he was charged with reviving rugby in league-dominated Sydney when Michael Foley was exiled to Perth at the end of 2012.
''When Michael came and saw me in Christchurch, he sold me on his vision.
''I hadn't known him at that stage. I left that meeting thinking 'he's a good guy, i could really coach with him and I really like what he's about','' he said.
''I looked at the roster, it's a very good one and one you could say you could do something with. It was pretty compelling and part of my motivation for moving here.
''I'm very proud as a coach to have been involved with a team that has transformed itself and changed so much from the team we took over a couple of years ago.''
Meanwhile, Mehrtens was also welcomed at the Waratahs base yesterday despite their part-time kicking coach telling Fairfax Media he was confident the Crusaders would beat his new 'home' team.
''I really felt for Mehrts this week, he's obviously a red and black legend,'' said Gibson.
''He was always going to be put in that position where his true feelings are going to come out."