A stormy week ahead for the deflated Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2014
Richie McCaw
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ
LISTEN UP: Injured flanker Richie McCaw, right, joins his team-mates in listening to assistant coach Aaron Mauger deliver some messages at training.

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The task of assaulting players with verbal missiles has yet to be added to the Crusaders coaches' work list.

Although assistant coach Dave Hewett would struggle to recall a Crusaders side crumbling as spectacularly as the one that lost 35-24 to the Blues last Friday, he denied technicolour language was required to ram some urgent messages home.

"Yes, you can get angry and we are angry and they [the players] are angry," Hewett said. "They are all angry with themselves and they are angry with their performance.

"But the reality is that kicking rubbish bins and kicking the cat and the dog is not going to help anyone. We just have to make sure the message is clear and it is executed properly."

Hewett is no fool. He knows the players may not appreciate having their reputations publicly battered by one of the management.
Who knows - perhaps he, along with boss Todd Blackadder and fellow assistants Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger, have vowed not to air their grubby laundry in public and are letting their men stew before getting stuck into them in a sound-proof room.

Or maybe the coaches launched their rockets post-match at Eden Park. The silent treatment, given the work that needs to be done, would be an unwise option.

Whatever happens things need to be urgently corrected if the Crusaders are to beat the Stormers in Christchurch on Saturday night.

The South Africans are rarely the happiest of travellers but anyone who watched the Blues score 29 unanswered points against the winless Crusaders knows that means nothing now.

The Stormers, who only scraped home against the Hurricanes last weekend and were thumped by the Lions in the opening round, don't appear to be up to much. In saying that, neither do the Crusaders.

One of the worst sights was watching them kick aimlessly back to the Blues, allowing their talented counter-attackers back into the game.

Fluffing around on defence, instead of clearing for touch, defied logic and the less said about the missed tackles the better.

"The frustration comes from [having] a game plan in place, that is not executed to the level that everyone going into the game should have had clarity on," Hewett said.

The Crusaders have invited a mental skills coach to join them this season and given what unfolded in Auckland, there is a lump of material to work with. Altering their game plan against the Stormers appears certain.

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Last year lock Sam Whitelock played a major role in disrupting the South Africans' lineout, making life miserable for their giant Andries Bekker.

Bekker has since departed for Japan but the strategy, which required the injury-hit Crusaders to rely on defence, steely set-pieces and kicking for territory may be replicated.

"You play the Stormers, they have a great defensive line," Hewett said.

"They have about 13 [men] across the field, so trying to penetrate that is really hard. Kicking is part of that game plan. "

Meanwhile, Richie McCaw is due to see a specialist this week concerning his broken thumb to determine when, or if, an operation is required to insert a screw into the damaged digit.

- Fairfax Media

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