Crockett keen to end Crusaders' title drought

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:02 23/07/2013

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INJURY CLOUD: Wyatt Crockett is in doubt for the All Blacks' Bledisloe opener.

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Wyatt Crockett concedes he didn't fully grasp the magnitude of the Crusaders' last title win in 2008.

When the loosehead prop, then 25, accepted the Super 14 winner's medal following that victory over the Waratahs at Lancaster Park he had no idea of the title-drought that lay in wait.

Now, having experienced the hurt of losing a grand final in 2011 and dipping out in the semis in 2009, 2010 and 2012 he realises how fortunate he was to experience success so early in his career.

"When I came into the team in 2006 the team had won a lot of titles and obviously we won that year [against the Hurricanes] and missed out in '07 before winning again the following year," Crockett reflected.

"I probably didn't appreciate how special it was in 2008. But certainly now, after missing out so many times, I do and I want those young guys here to experience that.

"We have talked about that a bit, about how special it is to win a title."

Sanzar's decision to lengthen the season by adding another team, creating more derby matches and adding the June test window has stretched the season from a middle-distance race to a marathon - the impact on the Crusaders, who had eight players in the All Blacks squad during the June series, has been significant.

Yet they have rebounded to win their last four matches and qualify for Saturday night's semifinal against the Chiefs - the defending champions - at Waikato Stadium.

The test series against France also exposed Crockett to the novelty of playing the same team three times.

Unlike a number of his Crusaders' international team-mates, who have met the Wallabies in the three-match Bledisloe Cup series in recent years, Crockett has had to bow to Tony Woodcock as the starting loosehead.

That order was reversed during the recent series against France when Crockett was preferred for the No 1 jersey against Nicolas Mas and Luc Ducalcon.

Despite bounding over 98-test veteran Woodcock, who was hospitalised ahead of the first test at Eden Park because of a nasal infection, Crockett swerves the subject of whether he can now be considered New Zealand's premier loosehead.

"I don't know. I will leave that to the coaches. We get on really well. He's [Woodcock] been a great help to me. Hopefully we can keep the one-two combination going for a few more years yet."

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Crockett also denies he hopes to use the Crusaders' success to convince All Blacks coach Steve Hansen he should retain his job during the Rugby Championship.

"Not really. I don't need any other motivation to play really well for the Crusaders. I love this team and really want to win a championship, so it's going to he a hell of a tough one. Hopefully we give ourselves a chance."

Sanzar have appointed Steve Walsh as referee of the Crusaders-Chiefs match.

Craig Joubert will officiate the other semi between the Bulls and Brumbies in Pretoria on Sunday morning.

- The Press

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