Crusaders seek 'Big Beast' in backline as target
Wanted: an ambitious and powerful centre/wing who flattens tacklers, runs like a fury and doesn't mind Christchurch's winters.
Having just "two or three" places to fill in his 2015 squad ensures Todd Blackadder's shopping list is short, but that doesn't mean it isn't big on ambition as he searches for a dangerous ball carrier to give his backline more fear factor.
Dwelling on last weekend's 33-32 loss to the Waratahs in the Super Rugby grand final in Sydney isn't an option for Crusaders head coach Blackadder who is already on the hunt for a man who can give opponents' nightmares whenever he gets near the ball.
"We are definitely looking for another big, strong X-factor midfielder/winger, we are looking for a bit of firepower there," Blackadder said.
"We are looking globally - within New Zealand, Japan or anywhere. We have got an open mind."
The Crusaders would undoubtedly benefit from having a giant stationed in their midfield. Dan Carter and Ryan Crotty did an admirable job as their team advanced into the grand final but Blackadder knows he would be best served by starting Carter at first five-eighth.
That is also going to be Carter's preference in World Cup year and Crotty would be better suited distributing to an explosive runner from second-five.
Last year the Crusaders, along with several other franchises, targeted Auckland's Malakai Fekitoa but the centre signed a two-year deal with the Highlanders. Blackadder will be determined that a similar diamond doesn't slip through their fingers again.
The Crusaders proved that they were prepared to scour the world when contracting Nemani Nadolo from Japanese club NEC Green Rockets, but their hunt is likely to start closer to home as they sift through talent in the National Provincial Championship.
Former All Blacks Richard Kahui and Hosea Gear want to return to New Zealand after completing their commitments in Japan, but Blackadder suggested the Crusaders may look for a younger recruit.
"We are preferably looking for someone who is not too long in the tooth, a line breaker with a bit of X-factor who can give us some punch and real go-forward. Someone like another Fekitoa."
Given the number of All Blacks on their roster the Crusaders must be cautious about operating within the budget guidelines determined by the New Zealand Rugby Union; signing a young, explosive player who won't blow the budget would be ideal, even though third-party deals can also be offered as part of their packages.
The Crusaders' record of making every finals series since 2002, and playing alongside so many internationals, makes the franchise an appealing destination for players looking for exposure.
All Blacks midfielder Ma'a Nonu has already exercised an out-clause to separate from the Blues and will join the Hurricanes, while Sonny Bill Williams will return to the Chiefs when his NRL commitments are complete.
Because of the World Cup next year's competition will start a week earlier. There will also be no domestic test window in June, which means Blackadder won't lose his All Blacks late in the season.
"There are some real positives there because we can go all the way through."
- The Press
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