McCaw absence no excuse says Blackadder

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2013

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Todd Blackadder has spurned suggestions Richie McCaw's absence has robbed the Crusaders of their ability to lay king-hits on opponents.

Squandering a nine-point lead during last Friday night's 29-28 loss to the Hurricanes and getting thumped 34-15 by the Blues a week earlier has left the Crusaders with more than just an 0-2 record; it has also fuelled concerns they have lost the knack of grinding down teams before pulling the trigger.

It now seems everyone outside the inner-sanctum - diehard fans, media, casual observers - are offering reasons for the Crusaders' slow start which has yielded just two competition points.

An obvious starting point is to blame the absence of All Blacks captain McCaw for the inability to close out the Hurricanes match, or as was the case in the Blues fixture, to at least secure a bonus point instead of conceding a try in the final seconds.

Crusaders head coach Blackadder is having none of it.

Although his immediate emotions were probably a fusion of anger and disbelief as he watched Alapati Leiua intercept Adam Whitelock's pass in the dying minutes at the Cake Tin, Blackadder said McCaw's absenteeism is offset by the Crusaders' hardened veterans.

"We have no excuses there because we have got plenty of experienced people in the forwards and ‘DC' (Dan Carter) is a very experienced leader of the backline. And look at the likes of (openside flanker) Matt Todd who is having a blinder of a season and has probably been our best player in the last two weeks."

Over the off-season the Crusaders formulated plans to ensure All Blacks such as Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and Carter, who was also relieved of the vice-captaincy, didn't have to shoulder the burden of leading the team. But the plan is yet to pay off.

Although the Crusaders surged back after trailing 12-7 against the Hurricanes, the decision to fling the ball wide instead of holding possession and building phases inside their own half almost beggared belief.

Blackadder conceded he was frustrated his side but refused to crucify Adam Whitelock.

"I would like us to be a bit more ruthless but we are where we are.

"We probably should have won but there was a hell of a lot improvement. I was very pleased with the attack in the second half.

"We know we need to improve our discipline and our error-rate was too high."

The Crusaders hold a reputation for being slow starters to their Super Rugby campaigns and it has not been uncommon to drop their opening matches.

They last conceded two losses at the beginning of the season against the Waratahs and Blues in 2004.

Changes to the run-on XV for Saturday night's match against the Bulls at AMI Stadium are unlikely but reserve back Tom Taylor will be unavailable for several weeks after injuring his medial ligament in the lead-up to Carter's try in Wellington.

Lock Luke Romano is also expected to again be declared unfit because of his rib injury.

"I don't think we need to change much," Blackadder said.

"I'm fairly pleased where we are at - a win would change things psychologically but we are still in great heart."

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