Crusaders coach Robbie Deans has defended his controversial decision to rest captain Richie McCaw for the second successive week in the Vodacom Super 14.
The All Black flank was left out of the match 22 for the champions crucial match against the Bulls at Loftus – one they must win if they hope to finish top of the log.
Deans told the The Press newspaper that McCaw had been “flat” after a massive workload and he wanted to make sure his skipper was “fresh and firing” for the challenges ahead.
Deans said he could understand people saying that it was risky to rest McCaw with the Crusaders yet to clinch a semi-finals berth, but he argued it was questionable whether McCaw would be back to his best without the break.
“It’s not just about nailing a semi-final place. Yes, we’ve got to do that. But it’s no good limping in there and getting spanked.”
To those who felt it was folly to leave out a world-class player from such a crucial match, Deans said people seemed to forget “Richie played against the Force and we didn’t win”.
He said the coaching staff had “picked the team we think will help us (win against the Bulls), and also to go forward from here”.
“The obvious thing is that Richie has benefited from his break, but we are not convinced, in consultation with him, that he’s right up there,” Deans said. “We don’t want to push him. We want to get him back up there … With the games ahead, it’s important to have Richie fresh and firing.”