Crusaders wing stocks take another hit
The Crusaders' wing curse has continued.
Kurt Baker, widely regarded as the logical replacement for Zac Guildford after he withdrew himself from the Christchurch-based Super Rugby campaign, tore a hamstring playing for the All Blacks Sevens in Wellington on Saturday.
Baker has been replaced for the next leg of the IRB Sevens in Las Vegas this weekend. He is expected to be out of all rugby for six weeks.
He will be unavailable for the Crusaders' first competition match of the season against the Blues at Eden Park on March 1.
Canterbury's Mark Jackman and Milford Keresoma (Auckland) were yesterday called in to the sevens team to replace Baker and captain D J Forbes, who succumbed to a knee injury.
The Crusaders were blissfully unaware of Baker's injury in Wellington as they slowly fried under the Timaru sun on Saturday afternoon while losing their first pre-season game to the Hurricanes.
Last week, the squad wallowed in the warm fuzzies of a pre-season bonding session as they poked around various towns of the Mainland and embarked on an Amazing Race-style exercise that required them to hitch rides to mystery destinations before finally lobbing into Hanmer Springs.
Then things got serious.
They gathered their shooting irons, fishing rods and anything else capable of knocking the lights out of wild game and headed into the Canterbury foothills or towards the coast.
Upon their return they heaped-up a pile of tucker that was prepared for a feast by a local restaurant.
Word has it that the chef cooked the lot but drew the line at the feral cats.
For the match against the Hurricanes at Alpine Energy Stadium the giggles and high fives had been replaced by liniment, strapping, blood and buckets of sweat.
About 5000 people watched the game, a respectable crowd for a fixture containing few current internationals and at a time of the year when we should be setting our sights solely on England's cricket tour.
The Hurricanes won 27-26.
Played over four quarters, both sides made regular substitutions.
An unlimited inter-change and a pool of 51 players to choose from ensured a it would be a messy arrangement.
The Hurricanes, who out-scored the Crusaders by five tries to four, could have won by a bigger margin but fullback Andre Taylor could only slot one conversion.
Openside flanker Shane Christie, centre Kieran Fonotia and hooker Codie Taylor scored for the Crusaders in the opening quarter and fullback Tom Marshall added another.
Both sides spurned kickable penalties, the constant scrum resets accelerated the fans' thoughts about heading to the bar for another beer, and handling errors ballooned as the match wore on.
All Blacks tighthead prop Owen Franks played only the opening quarter while the rest of his international team-mates watched from the stand.
Loose forwards Jordan Taufua and Luke Whitelock carried the ball strongly as the Canes defence tired, while Taylor produced a sharp step and some decent pace to score his long-range try.
While their runs no doubt pleased the crowd, Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will have been more interested in individual statistics to measure work-rate in the less glamorous areas; defence, cleanouts and kick chases.
He used all 27 of his players, including South Canterbury outside back Steve Burt and several academy recruits, and declared himself satisfied with the result.
All Blacks, including new captain Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano and Israel Dagg, may be considered for Friday's match against the Highlanders in Oamaru.
Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty, Corey Flynn, Johnny McNicholl and Adam Whitelock, who didn't play in Timaru because of minor injuries, could also re-appear for their first runs of 2013.