Blackadder hopes to reap rewards for gamble
Todd Blackadder gambled and won in Dunedin and now hopes for a spectacular payout against the Chiefs on Friday night.
Relegating Kieran Read, Wyatt Crockett and Luke Romano to the reserves for last weekend's match against the Highlanders did more than allow the Crusaders to cottonwool their tired All Blacks. It also bought time to grasp the strategies that were tweaked by the squad while they were on test duty.
Now up to five changes in the forwards and a souped-up attitude are likely to be delivered to the Chiefs following the 40-12 win over the Highlanders.
Tighthead prop Owen Franks, who spent five days in hospital last week because of an infected elbow, and hooker Corey Flynn (on the bench in Dunedin following a hamstring strain) are likely to join Read, Crockett and Romano in adding some serious grunt to the Crusaders pack.
Franks trained without any noticeable discomfort yesterday but assistant coach Tabai Matson remained cautious.
''He has been in hospital and on antibiotics. It's just about how he pulls-up over the next couple of days.''
One of the most painful memories from their previous match against the Chiefs, a 28-19 loss on May 24, involved a period in the second half when the Crusaders mounted repeat attacks but failed to score. Charged-down kicks by Dan Carter and Tom Marshall led to Chiefs tries but it was how their opponents kept their line clean before replying with a try to Bundee Aki that prickles the Crusaders' pride.
With former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith designing their defensive screens, the Chiefs profited. Asked if he could see Smith's handprints in the Chiefs' tactics, Matson replied: ''Yes. Lots of them. He's guilty.''
While the Chiefs are guaranteed a place in the finals, the Crusaders need a win from their final two matches to qualify. Their strategy of using the width of the field, a ploy often used earlier in the season when the ball and conditions were dry, is just a distant memory.
''So going for four tries is not the key,'' Matson said.
''At this time of the year momentum is created by winning. If we win by half a point we will be really happy. Ugly looks pretty at this time of the year.''
Richie McCaw trained with the squad yesterday but is not expected to be available for the match. A return for either the Crusaders or his Christchurch club is expected next weekend.
Matson was also grateful to have a fit backline despite Highlanders midfielder Ma'a Nonu launching a late tackle on Dan Carter and tipping Tom Marshall in a spear tackle.
''I can't comment about someone else's mental state and probably in one incident he clearly had a brain fart and he's paid the consequences,'' Matson said.''What he did to 'Tojo' (Marshall), you can get seriously injured doing that and that's why they have a zero tolerance.''
Nonu has received a three-week suspension. His season with the Highlanders is over.