High noon on the high veldt for Blackadder

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014
Todd Blackadder
DANIEL TOBIN/ Fairfax NZ
UNDER THE PUMP: Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder's feeling the heat to get his side performing.

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Calculating how many competition points the Crusaders may require to make the Super Rugby finals is already a scary exercise.

Since Super Rugby's extension to 15 teams three years ago the minimum points needed to place sixth has been 54 - the total reached by the Cheetahs last year.

This statistic means the Crusaders, who have accumulated just nine competition points from five matches, must win their remaining 11 round-robin fixtures and also secure several bonus points to reach the finals for a 13th consecutive time.

Given that the Crusaders have only totalled nine tries and two wins, that's a big ask - a bit like tossing them a pair of flippers and a snorkel and instructing them to climb Mt Everest.

The Crusaders' biggest saviour may yet be their competitors though. It's the unpredictable results that keep them in this race, with only eight points separating the second-placed Brumbies from the 13th-placed Crusaders.

It would be wasting ink to list ways the Crusaders can win the title because at the moment that's just a pipedream.

Writing such scornful statements usually ends up being pinned to the team's wall as a way of geeing-up the players; let's hope it works because not much else seems to be galvanising them.

For frustrated coach Todd Blackadder, being lodged in South Africa must seem like the perfect location following the  26-23 loss to the Hurricanes.

He is copping it from all angles and rarely has he needed a win so badly as the one his team is chasing against the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Blackadder's optimism during the summer, when the squad gathered for their first training at Taylor's Mistake, seems a long time ago.

Even with Dan Carter on a sabbatical he believed playmakers Colin Slade, Tom Taylor and Tyler Bleyendaal would provide adequate cover and that his forward pack, stacked with internationals, would ensure possession wouldn't be an issue.

It's now apparent the Crusaders may have invested too heavily in their forwards, of which 10 are All Blacks.

Signing cheques for the big boys no doubt chewed-up much of their budget and diminished their chances of signing a back possessing X-factor or the physique to keep opposition defenders in a state of anxiety on the eve of a match.

Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo, listed at 125kg, undoubtedly has the size to bust tackles and intimidate, but he has yet to start a game. We just haven't seen enough of him to believe he is a beast on attack.

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There were hopes Reynold Lee-Lo, who started at centre in the early losses to the Chiefs and Blues and the scratchy win over the Stormers, would thrive in Christchurch after shifting from the Hurricanes.

Lee-Lo was so good at the Canes he was voted as the players' player of the season, but his lack of form at the Crusaders forced his dismissal after just three games.

All Blacks wing Zac Guildford has been left behind from the South African tour. His rapid decline from favour suggests the 25-year-old is still confronting personal issues following his well-documented battles with alcohol.

Adding to the pressure are injuries to lock Luke Romano and loosehead props Joe Moody and Tim Perry.

Blackadder can't worry about any of that. He has got to get his team to win in Jo'burg.

- The Press

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