Referee change one less worry for Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2014
Tabai Matson
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SPEAKING UP: Tabai Matson.

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Blood pressure levels must have eased a fraction in the Crusaders' camp following Francisco Pastrana's replacement.

There is sure to be enough anxiety among the Crusaders this week without having to factor in Argentinian referee Pastrana, into their meetings ahead of Friday night's Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes at Christchurch Stadium.

Pastrana has been replaced by New Zealander Nick Briant following his stinker during last weekend's match between the Blues and Cheetahs at Eden Park.

While there was the usual griping about scrums (an issue that could diminish if Sanzar bosses listened to everyone's pleas to let the halfback decide when to put the ball in) the biggest clanger was when Pastrana over-ruled the TMO when George Moala made a double-movement during a lunge for the line.

It was obvious Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson agreed with the decision to ditch Pastrana, despite his diplomatic speech.

"As long as there is consequence around a poor performance . . .

"Just like players they have a breather and go to another level and work their way back up," Matson said.

Refereeing in the opening six rounds has varied between good and abysmal; last week the Sanzar referees boss dropped South African referee Stuart Berry as punishment for a dreadful performance when the Lions beat the Blues in Johannesburg.

TMO Johan Greeff appeared just as confused during that match and it is difficult not to agree with Press columnist Andrew Mehrtens in his assessment that some "bozos" are sitting in the booth.

The Crusaders, who are coming off the bye, have enough to worry about without spending their precious time wondering what sort of ill-conceived ideas Pastrana was about to dream up.

There is no doubt the next month is going to be crucial to their title hopes.

Following the Hurricanes match they fly to South Africa to meet the Lions and Cheetahs and then face the Chiefs in Hamilton immediately upon their return.

At least it appears the tinkering of the backline has finished.

Colin Slade is set to start his second consecutive match and the midfield combination of Tom Taylor and Ryan Crotty should be retained.

"We are pretty settled in our backline at the moment and combinations are always pretty consistent performances," Matson confirmed.

Big Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo made a limited impact when he appeared in the second half of the scrappy win over the Rebels in Melbourne on March 14.

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Matson refused to rule him out as being a starter but the coaches may prefer to persevere with Johnny McNicholl and Nafi Tuitavake. "He brings something very different which is pretty exciting for our roster.

"Yes, he will be in the mix."

Tim Perry is expected to be ruled out with a hamstring strain, while another loosehead prop, Joe Moody, is still recovering from the leg he broke in last year's NPC final.

Warhorse flanker George Whitelock, who missed the last two matches with an adductor injury, is available.

Halfback Willi Heinz (calf strain) will not risked so close to the South African leg.

- The Press

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