Crusaders coaches have full support - Riach

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2014
Todd Blackadder
DANIEL TOBIN/ Fairfax NZ
MIFFED: Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder can't believe the Waratahs have chosen to relinquish part of their home advantage for Saturday night's Super Rugby final in Sydney.

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No ultimatum has been issued to Todd Blackadder.

The Crusaders unconvincing start has left them languishing in 12th place but chief executive Hamish Riach was adamant neither he, nor the board, have fired any private warning shots at head coach Blackadder or his assistants Dave Hewett, Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger.

"All the coaching staff have our unconditional support, we have complete faith in them," said Riach, who is on tour with the Crusaders in South Africa.

"Of course when a campaign starts slowly you are well aware of it, and there are lots of conversations about it, but none of them have been about the coaching group not being the right group to coach the team.

"They have our full support."

Several Super Rugby head coaches have been under the pump this year.

Hurricanes boss Mark Hammett announced he won't be back next season and the Stormers' Allister Coetzee, having won just one match, is under scrutiny in Cape Town.

The owners of the Warriors rugby league side have been less tolerant than their rugby counterparts, sacking Matthew Elliott after just five rounds.

Blackadder and his assistants are signed to the franchise through to 2016.

There is uncertainty as to whether their contracts are subject to annual reviews or if the coaches have been guaranteed a full three-year term.

The Crusaders, who haven't missed the playoffs since 2001, have a 3-3 record this year. Riach wouldn't be drawn on what could happen if the side didn't qualify for the finals.

"We are not even going there. As I say, we have complete faith in this coaching group. We always review our campaigns but we are not getting into 'what ifs'. They are good coaches and are working hard."

Their lacklustre start to the season - they have suffered defeats to the Chiefs, Blues and Hurricanes - already means their pre-season goal of winning the New Zealand conference appears unlikely.

The Chiefs, who like the Crusaders have only played six matches, are seven points ahead of them on the log and have already completed their South African tour.

Despite the slow start, Riach said he had seen enough of the squad, on and off the training fields, to believe they were operating in a settled environment.

A win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein tomorrow morning is imperative if the Crusaders are to give their campaign any momentum.

Last Sunday's 28-7 win over the Lions in Johannesburg was their best performance of the season but a late try to centre Kieron Fonotia flattered the tourists, who are yet to get their attack firing.

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"We were really happy with what we saw in Johannesburg," Riach maintained. "The game plan worked and they stuck to it. The campaign certainly didn't get off to the start we would have liked and we were disappointed about that.

"But, equally, the leadership has shone through in recent times."

- Fairfax Media

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