Monday, February 8, 2010

Champion Crusaders face another Super 14 rugby season ...

Todd's men ready to launch new crusade - champion Crusaders face another Super 14 season...

With the Rebel Sport Super 14 kicking off for the Crusaders against the Highlanders at AMI Stadium on Saturday night, Todd Blackadder will take his fabulous team into a 2010 campaign again with the pedigree and squad to challenge for yet another title.

If the Crusaders could achieve what they have become very accomplished at doing and win another championship, it would be their eighth overall.

Such is their record that they have precisely a 50 percent chance of winning based on their seven titles in the fourteen years of Super rugby competition.

In the professional era, the world has seen some dominant periods from powerhouse provinces and domestic teams. In the North, both Toulouse, Munster and the Leicester Tigers have won multiple Heineken Cups and league titles to stake claims. Closer to home the Brumbies were once the foundation in which the Wallabies built their golden reign a decade ago.

Of course in New Zealand, Auckland still holds a place as quite possibly the greatest provincial team ever with some fantastic title reigns.

But Canterbury in a short amount of time has established a dynasty.

Only on three occasions have they not finished in the top four, and they currently boast a record of eight consecutive semi final appearances. They also have two grand final appearances to go with their seven titles, and hold most of the records that are etched in the annals of Super rugby.

They approach 2010 with a squad that is as strong as ever, with 11 capped All Blacks. Their twin masterpieces of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter (pictured) will be fit to commence the season, although the New Zealand test captain will be rested in the early stages of the competition.

And all the essential platforms are there.

The province won the Air New Zealand Cup last year, and Blackadder has a year under his belt. Many expected the local legend to struggle in his first year in charge, but he took his side, without the services of many key players, into yet another semi final.

But what makes the red and blacks so dangerous is that they have all of the qualities that many teams will never have, irrespective of all the coaches, personal or money spent.

They know how to win, can peak at the right time, are adept at closing a game out, and play a precision style that is very difficult to overcome. A strategy that puts immense pressure on the opposition - any team that plays the Crusaders know that if they commit mistakes they will be severely punished.

If they were to have a weakness, perhaps it is the fact that they are so used to achieving, that maybe an aberration awaits. Maybe the bubble could burst and a new cycle could begin.

Or so their opposition would hope.

Within the forwards, there will be much interest on their buttressed front row stocks, with Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks both part of the new breed of the countries test props. Corey Flynn will commence the new season, after making it back into national colours after a bad run with injuries.

In the second row, the Crusaders will have no less than three All Black locks to choose from. There is much anticipation in how Chris Jacks “assimilates” back into New Zealand rugby, but based on his recent performances for Western Province in South Africa, he will quickly settle back in. Brad Thorn, the ageless workhorse, will be a pivotal pack leader, while Isaac Ross has a big future.

The back row will be powerful, led by McCaw, and supported by provincial captain George Whitelock and impressive “tank engine” Thomas Waldrom. Kieran Read will be closely monitored, as he is now considered the country’s leading Number eight and will look to continue what has been a meteoric rise in the last two years.

Andy Ellis will look to fight his way back into a crowded national queue, with the Canterbury scrum half one of five players featured at All Black level in the position in the last two years (every New Zealand franchise will feature an test capped number nine). He will be backed up by Kahn Fotuali'i.

At first five, Dan Carter, who will rejoin the Crusaders for the first time since 2008, will be crucial to their campaign. Young Daniel Bowden – the sides only draft players - will back him up.

In the three quarters, Sean Maitland, who had a brilliant season with Canterbury this year, will guide their attacking efforts. Joined by new All Black wing Zac Guildford and standby test player Colin Slade, the Crusaders will also have the services of young Jared Payne who was brilliant for Northland this season.

However, despite the young talent out wide, they will not field as decorated or experienced a backline as other sides in the competition.

The Crusaders will open their campaign with a local derby against the Highlanders. This match will see numerous Canterbury and Southland players cross for the first time since the Southerners famous Shield victory, ensuring a passionate opening to both side’s 2010 seasons.

The Crusaders then travel to Brisbane to play the Queensland Reds, before returning home to play the Sharks and then play another big game clash against old rivals the Blues.

A week later they travel north to play the Chiefs, who usurped them in 2009 as the best New Zealand team in the competition. They will then return home to play the Lions before taking their bye in week seven.

They then play another derby with a big game in Wellington against the Hurricanes, before returning home to host the Waratahs and the Cheetahs.

They then finish the season in challenging circumstances. They will travel to play the Force in Perth, before playing the Stormers in Cape Town and the reigning champions in Pretoria. Their final match of the regular season will be against the Brumbies at home.


Home ground: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Coach: Todd Blackadder
Captain: Richie McCaw

2009: 4th

Hookers: Corey Flynn, Ti'I Paulo
Props: Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Peter Borlase
Locks: Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Chris Jack, Sam Whitelock
Loose forwards: Thomas Waldrom, Richie McCaw, George Whitelock, Jonathan Poff, Kieran Read
Halfbacks: Andrew Ellis, Kahn Fotuali'i
First five-eighth: Dan Carter, Daniel Bowden
Centres: Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Robert Fruean
Wingers: Zac Guildford, Kade Poki, Sean Maitland, Adam Whitelock
Fullbacks: Colin Slade, Jared Payne

Crusaders Super Rugby record

Super 12 placing

Year Played Win Draw Loss Diff BP Points Place
1996 11 2 1 8 -144 3 13 12th
1997 11 5 1 5 37 4 26 6th
1998 11 8 0 3 80 9 41 1st defeated Blues in final
1999 11 7 1 3 62 3 33 1st defeated Highlanders in final
2000 11 8 0 3 76 7 39 1st defeated Brumbies in final
2001 11 4 0 7 -24 7 23 10th
2002 11 11 0 0 205 7 51 1st defeated Brumbies in final
2003 11 8 0 3 95 8 40 2nd lost final to Blues
2004 11 7 0 4 42 6 34 2nd lost final to Brumbies
2005 11 9 0 2 178 8 44 1st defeated Waratahs in final

Super 14 placing

Year Played Win Draw Loss Diff BP Points Place
2006 13 11 1 1 202 5 51 1st defeated Hurricanes in final
2007 13 8 0 5 147 10 42 3rd Lost to the Bulls in semi
2008 13 11 0 2 193 8 52 1st defeated Waratahs in final
2009 13 8 1 4 33 7 41 4th Lost to the Bulls in semi

The Crusaders

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