Crusaders prepare for big final defensive effort
The defensive sirens have been wailing inside the Crusaders camp as they prepare to adjust their tackling technique in tomorrow night's Super Rugby final.
Captain and No 8 Kieran Read accepts the Crusaders could be crucified if the Waratahs make easy metres or sneak offloads at Sydney's ANZ Stadium - a point that coach Todd Blackadder has banged on about all week behind closed doors.
Just looking at the stats sheets should be enough to give the Crusaders goose bumps.
Waratahs fullback Israel Folau leads the competition in offloads and is second for making clean breaks. Centre Adam Ashley-Cooper is third in that latter category, while big ball-carrying forwards such as No 8 Wycliff Palu and hooker Tatafu Polota Nau add variety to the attack.
''It's important we stay focused and defend for long periods of time if we have to,'' Read said.
''I guess it's that one moment where you don't fill the inside or look after the offload they will kill us. It (defence) is important for us.''
The Waratahs are not the minor premiers by accident; they average more tries, carries, metres, passes, breaks and offloads than any team in the competition.
The Crusaders must have looked at each other with raised eyebrows when the Brumbies retained possession for long periods to keep danger men like Folau and Ashley-Cooper quiet during last weekend's semi but preventing them from offloading when they do have the ball is crucial.
Loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett revealed Blackadder had made that clear.
''We know we are going to have defend out wide and they will have a go from anywhere on the track,'' Crockett said.
''We just have to be prepared to defend a little bit differently than we did against the Sharks (during last weekend's semi) who kicked a lot more. We just have to be a bit sharper there.''
Defence coach Tabai Matson may encourage his men to go high on the Waratahs ball carriers, urging them to wrap them up before quickly wrestling them to the deck to give scavengers like Matt Todd or Richie McCaw the chance to get over the ball for turnovers.
Big tackles could create self-doubt among the Waratahs and potentially force them to go away from their expansive game plan, Read said.
''We know the importance of shutting them down and it's a way you can exert a bit of pressure on them too.
''If that's the way they want to play and we can stop it - it gives us another chance to get into them.''
Read has had a glittering career, including winning a World Cup and being named the IRB player of the year but he has collected just one Super Rugby title - against the Waratahs at Lancaster Park in 2008.
When quizzed on their set pieces the Crusaders have refused to give Waratahs coach Michael Cheika any chance to push inflammatory quotes under his players' noses but their first scrum should be a fist-shaking exercise.
Last weekend they popped the rivets out of the Sharks' scrum - which had given the Highlanders a pasting the previous weekend - and the Waratahs pack have reason to be anxious.
''The rate of improvement in this team has been immense,'' Read warned.
''It's important that we don't just stop now, and we have to improve again.''
Blackadder has predictably named the same team that thrashed the Sharks 38-6.
SUPER RUGBY FINAL FACTS
Facts for the Super Rugby final between the New South Wales Waratahs and Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night (9.40pm NZ time):
Crusaders: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008
RUNNERS-UP (winner in brackets):
Crusaders: 2003 (Blues), 2004 (Brumbies), 2011 (Reds)
Waratahs: 2005 (Crusaders), 2008 (Crusaders)
Teams to win a Super Rugby semifinal/final outside their home country:
1996: Sharks beat Reds (semifinal), lost to Blues in final (Auckland)
1999: Crusaders beat Reds (semifinal)
1999: Highlanders beat Stormers (semifinal), lost to Crusaders in final (Dunedin)
2000: Crusaders beat Brumbies (final)
2011: Crusaders beat Stormers (semifinal), lost to Reds in final (Brisbane)
2012: Sharks beat Reds (semifinal), lost to Chiefs in final (Hamilton)
2013: Brumbies beat Bulls (semifinal), lost to Chiefs in final (Hamilton)
CRUSADERS: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Jordan Taufua, Willie Heinz, Johnny McNicholl
WARATAHS: Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Stephen Hoiles, Kane Douglas, Jacques Potgieter, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Tola Latu, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Mitchell Chapman, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Matt Carraro, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Peter Betham (two to be omitted)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
THE RUN TO THE FINAL:
Played 17 won 13 lost 4; points for 507, points against 280
v Force won 43-21
v Reds won 32-5
v Brumbies lost 28-23
v Rebels won 32-8
v Sharks lost 32-10
v Stormers won 22-11
v Force lost 28-16
v Bulls won 19-12
v Blues lost 21-13
v Hurricanes won 39-30
v Lions won 41-13
v Rebels won 41-19
v Chiefs won 33-17
v Brumbies won 39-8
v Highlanders won 44-16
v Reds won 34-3
v Brumbies won 26-8 (semifinal)
Tries: Scored 58 (1st in competition); Conceded 25 (1st)
Top points scorer: Bernard Foley 229 (1st)
Top try scorer: Israel Folau 12 (1st)
Goal kicking: Bernard Foley 80/104 (76.9%)
Played 17 won 12 lost 5; points for 483, points against 330
v Chiefs lost 18-10
v Blues lost 35-24
v Stormers won 14-13
v Rebels won 25-19
v Hurricanes lost 29-26
v Lions won 28-7
v Cheetahs won 52-31
v Chiefs won 18-17
v Brumbies won 40-20
v Reds won 57-29
v Sharks lost 30-25
v Highlanders won 32-30
v Force won 30-7
v Hurricanes lost 16-9
v Blues won 21-13
v Highlanders won 34-8
v Sharks won 38-6 (semifinal)
Tries: Scored: 46 (5th=); Conceded 36 (4th=)
Top points scorer: Colin Slade 178 (4th)
Top try scorer: Nemani Nadolo 11 (2nd)
Goal kicking: Colin Slade 59/75 (78.7%), Dan Carter 12/20 (60.0%)
Waratahs vs Crusaders in Super Rugby:
1996: Crusaders 21 Waratahs 16 - Christchurch
1997: Waratahs 25 Crusaders 8 - Sydney
1998: Crusaders 33 Waratahs 12 - Christchurch
1999: Crusaders 38 Waratahs 22 - Sydney
2000: Crusaders 22 Waratahs 13 - Christchurch
2001: Waratahs 25 Crusaders 22 - Sydney
2002: Crusaders 96 Waratahs 19 - Christchurch
2003: Waratahs 34 Crusaders 31 - Sydney
2004: Waratahs 43 Crusaders 14 - Christchurch
2005: Crusaders 33 Waratahs 27 - Sydney (regular season)
Crusaders 35 Waratahs 25 - Christchurch (final)
2006: Crusaders 17 Waratahs 11 - Christchurch
2007: Crusaders 34 Waratahs 33 - Sydney
2008: Crusaders 37 Waratahs 7 - Christchurch (regular season)
Crusaders 20 Waratahs 12 - Christchurch (final)
2009: Crusaders 17 Waratahs 13 - Sydney
2010: Crusaders 20 Waratahs 13 - Christchurch
2011: Crusaders 33 Waratahs 18 - Nelson
2012: Crusaders 37 Waratahs 33 - Sydney
2013: Crusaders 23 Waratahs 22 - Christchurch
2014: Did Not Play (regular season)
Played: 20; Crusaders won 16; Waratahs won 4
Teams for the previous Crusaders vs Waratahs Super 12 final at Christchurch in 2008:
Crusaders: Leon MacDonald, Kade Poki, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Scott Hamilton, Daniel Carter, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali'i, Richard McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Steve Fualau, Ben Franks, Reuben Thorne, Nasi Manu, Kahn Fotuali'i, Stephen Brett, Sean Maitland.
NSW Waratahs: Sam Norton-Knight, Lachlan Turner, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh (captain), Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Dean Mumm, Al Baxter, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Adam Freier, Matt Dunning, Will Caldwell, Beau Robinson, Brett Sheehan, Matt Carraro, Timana Tahu.
Crusaders 20 (Mose Tuiali'i try; Dan Carter 4 pens, dg) Waratahs 12 (Lachlan Turner 2 tries; Kurtley Beale con)
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)