Crotty promises to engage, not enrage, SBW
Watching Sonny Bill Williams indulge in a frenzy of finger-pointing, street talk and waving fists hasn't fazed Ryan Crotty.
Crotty, like everyone who watched the Chiefs play the Highlanders last weekend, was an interested observer as Williams lost his rag with Jarrad Hoeata during their 27-21 win in Dunedin.
The heated incident began after Williams shoulder-charged Nick Crosswell and Hoeata stepped in to remonstrate with the All Blacks No 12. Even midfielder Crotty, who is expected to mark Williams in Friday night's Super Rugby encounter and got to know him when they were Crusaders team-mates last year, was surprised.
"The Highlanders seemed to be putting a bit of niggle in in that game but that is not really the way we play," Crotty said.
"I haven't seen him fire-up like that. I don't really know what to say ... I don't know what would have happened if fists had started flying.
"It might have been Hoeata challenging for the heavyweight title."
Crotty is certain about one thing: he will not be looking to unsettle Williams by imitating Hoeata's confrontational style.
"I'm not too much of a fighter, we should be good there."
With Williams expected to snip his ties with New Zealand rugby and play in Japan before signing a one-year deal with an NRL club, this may be the last time the Crusaders face him (unless they meet in the playoffs or SBW returns before the 2015 World Cup).
First five-eighth Aaron Cruden and Williams have formed a potent combination for the Chiefs with the former having mastered the knack of knowing when to put the big No12 in space to either bash over the advantage line or unhook his offloads.
"We know they like to use him to get their go-forward to get into the game," Crotty added.
"So if we can get in his face we can maybe upset their game a little bit."
The task for Crotty will be to not be too tempted into double-teaming Williams in the tackle; he will be expected to drift towards the centre and trust his first-five to shut him down. "I just have to back whoever is inside me, whether it is Tom (Taylor) or Dan (Carter) or Tyler (Bleyendaal) – that they can make that tackle. The players inside or outside have to be alert for that offload."
Renowned for their rushing defence, the Chiefs treasure the opportunity to stifle opponents' momentum by bowling them near the gain line and then using their loose forwards, often led by No6 Liam Messam, to search for turnovers. Coach Dave Rennie also has the luxury of alternating Sam Cane with Tanerau Latimer as his openside flankers.
"We will have things we can do to counter that and turn them around," Crotty said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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