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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Super 14: Focus on the Crusaders

Article by Shark

The pre-eminent Super 12 side of, well, all time really, with five titles out of 10 (1998 – 2000, 2002 & 2005) and two losing finals appearances (2003, 2004), the Crusaders have stood astride this competition in Man United-esque fashion. Victims of their own success in that they have produced so many quality players, it was inevitable that there would be a raft of significant player losses eventually, and this year sees that happen. However, the 2006 Crusaders can still boast the lions’ share of New Zealand’s truly world class players and should enjoy another successful year.

Aforementioned player losses include rugby royalty such as Marshall and Mehrtens, plus lesser All Blacks such as Broomhall, Harding, Maxwell, Hewett, Blair to the draft and the non-selection of Greg Feek. New to the squad are up-and-coming locals Craig Clarke, Ben Franks, Andrew Ellis, Wyatt Crockett, and Steve Yates. Extra firepower has been bought in in the form of Kevin Senio (a somewhat controversial signing, seen as unnecessary in some quarters, like right here) and from the draft Ross Filipo, Brad Mika, Tenarau Latimer and Tony Koonwaiyou.

Class in key positions across the park. From Yoda Sommerville at prop (“scored two tries against the Brumbies one year I did”), to Chris Jack in the second row, to loosies Richie McCaw, Reuben Thorne and Mose Tuaili’i, Dan Carter and Aaron Mauger in the five-eighths and Rico Gear and Rangi MacDonald out wide. Filling in the gaps are former (short term) All Blacks such as Campbell Johnstone, Corey Flynn, Brad Mika, Kevin Senio, Casey Laulala and Caleb Ralph, plus exciting talent such as Crockett, Kevin O’Neill, Latimer, Ellis, Cameron McIntyre, Koonwaiyou and everybodies’ favourite outside back, Scott Hamilton.

If one must be found it could be depth in the loose forwards and at prop, particularly when one considers the talent available in these positions in previous years. After the all-All Black first string trio, openside cover is adequate with the stalwart Johnny Leo’o still there plus an unproven Latimer but injuries to Thorne and/or Tuaili’i will test the likes of Mika as a serious number eight option, while McCaw could be utilized on the blindside. In this area I believe the Crusaders’ selectors have made a rare mistake in not selecting Hayden Hopgood or George Nauopo, while there are an abundance of locks. At prop a gamble has been taken on youth in selecting back-up to Sommerville and Johnstone. Crockett is highly promising but extremely green, while if Crockett is green, Franks must be almost glow-in-the-dark fluorescent lime. Whether or not discarding the experienced Feek was a mistake will hopefully not be known.

A good dispersal of seven home matches, including a return to Timaru for the first time since Easter 1998, only this time I will not be at the Loaded Hog post-match to tell Owen Finegan what a useless tub of lard he is/was. With four home matches out of the first six rounds, preceding their bye, and the other two forays to Hamiltron and Brisbane, the Crusaders should be well set-up to deal with a back-end leg that includes a three match stretch in Perth and SA. The marquee home draw includes the Highlanders, Blues, ‘Tahs and Brumbies. The danger games to me being the away tie with the Hurricanes and the SA leg consisting of the Stormers and Bulls.

Will the loss of so much experience and perhaps depth hurt Deans’ men? If so, well, you TSF locals know the rest.

Look out for
Andrew Ellis took the first half of the 2005 NPC by storm before his efforts lessened in stature, but it would be rare for a player of his pedigree to not flourish in the Crusaders environment. It’s not difficult to see him usurping one-test All Black Senio as the number one choice at halfback, and if he can do this I’m sure he will be firmly in the eye of the New Zealand selectors.

First qualifiers and eventual competition winners.


Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Craig Clarke (Canterbury), Wyatt Crockett(Canterbury), Andrew Ellis (Canterbury), Ross Filipo (Wellington), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Ben Franks (Canterbury), Rico Gear (Nelson Bays), Scott Hamilton (Canterbury), Chris Jack (Canterbury), Campbell Johnstone (Canterbury), Tony Koonwaiyou (Auckland), Tone Kopelani (Canterbury), Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty), Casey Laulala (Canterbury), Johnny Leo’o (Canterbury), Leon MacDonald (Canterbury), Richie McCaw (Canterbury), Cameron McIntyre (Canterbury), Aaron Mauger (Canterbury), Bradley Mika (Auckland), Kevin O’Neill (Canterbury), Caleb Ralph (Canterbury), Kevin Senio (Canterbury), Greg Somerville (Canterbury), Reuben Thorne (Canterbury), Mose Tuiali’i (Canterbury), Steven Yates (Canterbury).
Good analysis

I agree with him.

Traditionally the Bulls have flattened them at Loftus.

Might be good to finally see young carter against the best SA has to offer in Loftus to see if he's buried the horror of Newlands 2005.

I haven't seen the squads for the Force, Tahs and Reds but the other Kiwi squads do not look this strong. The competition winners tag prediction is arrogant, but smart money will be on them winning the whole thing.

Calling the Stormers game one of the most dangerous one shows he is clueless about SA rugby...


You just had to add that last comment

Comapring the Crusaders to Man U, that is good news, that means it time for a massive flop and for them to keep deans as coach, even though he's all of a sudden lost the ability to change with the times and to remain a sub standard team for years to come!
Sorry donner

It was impulse....couldn't resist.
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