Blackadder keen to deliver the 'Hammer' blow

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Todd Blackadder
JOSPEH JOHNSON/ Fairfax NZ
CRUSADERS COACH: Todd Blackadder.

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It's what Todd Blackadder doesn't say that speaks the loudest.

Asked what he thought under-siege Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, an ex-Crusaders player and assistant coach, was experiencing ahead of tomorrow's match at AMI Stadium, Blackadder was in no position to provide smug comments.

Just a couple of weeks ago Blackadder was himself dodging poisonous darts after defeats to the Chiefs and Blues.

And although his team later beat the Stormers and Rebels, before they had the bye, those performances were unconvincing. The criticism has tapered off but it remains.

Hammett, though, is doing it much tougher.

The Hurricanes have a 1-4 record ahead of this Super Rugby fixture and another loss will only re-energise those critics who slipped into the shadows after they flogged the Cheetahs 60-27 on March 15.

"He's (Hammett) probably going through what we all go through when we don't perform," Blackadder said.

"You're disappointed and he'll be training his boys really hard to get back their belief and their confidence. I know, for us, if we don't win we are just straight back to the drawing board."

Hammett copped a vicious backlash from frustrated punters following defeats in South Africa to the Sharks and Stormers and the Brumbies in Wellington. Calls for Tana Umaga to be the next coach, despite the season being just three weeks old, grew louder.

Those antagonists have been strangely muted following the Canes' 35-31 loss to the Highlanders last week but there remains a suspicion they have only turned down the volume because they are preparing to mount another assault if they lose to the Crusaders.

That's not Blackadder's problem.

A defeat is unthinkable for the Crusaders who face a brutal schedule over the next three weeks.

They leave for South Africa, where they have never completed a clean-sweep since 2008, on Saturday morning to play the Lions and Cheetahs before flying back to meet the Chiefs in Hamilton.

With captain and No 8 Kieran Read celebrating his 100th cap there is no lack of motivation to go full-noise.

A "win it for Reado" theme hasn't dominated team meetings this week but Blackadder said there would be something wrong if his team-mates didn't have a dig for the skipper.

"With a player playing his 100th game you would want to win wouldn't you? The commitment he has given to the team  you would think we would all like to express that in our own way on Friday night."

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Last week the Highlanders mounted pressure on the Hurricanes by using halfback Aaron Smith's contestable box kicks to gain territory.

But the ploy of giving wing Julian Savea possession is dangerous if the kick-chase is slow. At least they won't have fullback Cory Jane to worry about. He has been ruled out with an ankle injury.

Blackadder made no changes to the side that beat the Rebels 25-29 in Melbourne a fortnight ago. The hamstring injury to Tim Perry means loosehead prop Daniel Lienert Brown is added to the bench.

Luke Whitelock has been again been preferred at blindside flanker over older brother George who has recovered from an adductor problem.

- Canterbury

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