Crusaders notch bonus-point Cheetahs win

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:40 13/04/2014
Willi Heinz
Getty Images
CLEARING THE WAY: Crusaders halfback Willi Heinz clears the ball from a ruck during their 52-31 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

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Richie McCaw won't be available for the resurgent Crusaders' ahead of their match against the Chiefs in Hamilton next weekend.

McCaw, who had a screw inserted in his thumb after fracturing it against the Blues on February 28, hoped to be back playing Super Rugby when the Crusaders returned from playing in South Africa.

Head coach Todd Blackadder, speaking after the Crusaders 52-31 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this morning, confirmed flanker McCaw won't be considered until the following fixture against the Brumbies in Christchurch on May 3.

The Crusaders have the bye after meeting the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium.

"It's just taken a little bit longer (to heal); he hasn't reinjured it or done anything silly,'' Blackadder said in reference to McCaw.

"It just hasn't healed as fast as initially thought it would. It's just all part of it. The good news he is going to be back in a couple of weeks.''

The Crusaders, who left McCaw behind in New Zealand during their tour of South Africa, haven't won both of their matches in the Republic since 2008.

Their victories over the Lions and Cheetahs also marked a personal milestone for Blackadder who has never guided a team through South Africa unbeaten since taking over as head coach 2009.

Their last win in Bloemfontein was in 2007 under former coach Robbie Deans.

Now, following the six-try bonus-point victory at Free State Stadium, the Crusaders return home full of optimism and they may also be to call in All Blacks lock Luke Romano.

Blackadder said there was a "possibility'' Romano, who didn't tour because of injury, could return. If fit he could replace Dominic Bird or be named on the bench ahead of Jimmy Tupou.

Despite making a raft of changes early in the second half against the Cheetahs, Blackadder said none of his players picked up any injuries that are expected to rule them out of consideration for their match against the Chiefs.

When the Crusaders left for South Africa a fortnight ago they were under immense pressure, having lost three of their opening six matches. They have since forced their way into the top eight and sit on 18 points.

Blackadder would have had some nervous moments as he watched the Cheetahs pull their way back into the match; after trailing 26-10 they rattled on three tries inside 10 minutes to lead 31-26 with 20 minutes remaining.

"That 10 minutes they had was just unbelievable and it was a real momentum shift to be back in front,'' Blackadder said.

"What was really pleasing was the messages from the (Crusaders) players out on the field. They were talking about just getting their hands on the ball, being really patient and putting them under a lot of pressure.''

The Crusaders led 19-10 at halftime and advanced their lead when Nemani Nadolo, who scored a hat-trick of tries, dotted down immediately after the re-start.

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"We felt before halftime we were starting to get on top. The Cheetahs looked as if they were out on their feet ... I was just so pleased with the fightback. The guys were bloody tough tonight.''

 

Crusaders 52 (Nemani Nadolo 3, Tom Taylor, Israel Dagg, Colin Slade tries; Slade 4 con, 4 pen, Tyler Bleyendaal con) Cheetahs 31 (Cornal Hendricks, Sarel Pretorius, Teboho Mahoje, Willie le Roux tries; Elgar Watts 4 cons, pen). HT: 19-10

- The Press

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