‘Saders missing superstars

Crusaders coach Robbie Deans admits the defending Vodacom Super 14 champions could struggle next season.

The Canterbury side will be without seven of their All Black players for the first seven rounds of the tournament — captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Aaron Mauger, Leon MacDonald, Chris Jack, Reuben Thorne and Greg Somerville,

This has forced Deans to select 12 new Crusaders and four via the draft system — Auckland fullback Brent Ward, Northland No 8 Jake Paringatai, North Harbour flyhalf Tusi Pisi, Wellington lock Ross Filipo and North Harbour centre Rua Tipoki.

“There are no positives,” Deans told Marc Hinton of Xtramsn, before adding that getting rested players back in round eight posed problems of its own.

“It will be more of a challenge than a benefit,” he said. “We’ve just seen it in the NPC. They’ll be coming in mid-campaign, up against hardened teams, hardened individuals and they’re coming off a background of zero.

“Getting physically to where they need to be and mentally to where they need to be will be hugely challenging. There’s going to be a massive amount of scrutiny, and all those peripheral distractions as well.

“Most importantly it’s just a physical reality. The key thing for us is to ensure we don’t have breakage because there’s a big potential of that as we’ve already seen.

“The other thing is it doesn’t compromise us as a group. While they’re finding their feet we can’t be suffering too much.”

Crusaders squad:

Tim Bateman * (Canterbury), Stephen Brett * (Canterbury), Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Ross Filipo *** (Wellington), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Ben Franks (Canterbury), Rico Gear (Tasman), Scott Hamilton (Canterbury), Chris Jack (Tasman), Campbell Johnstone (Canterbury), Casey Laulala (Canterbury), Johnny Leo’o (Canterbury), Richie McCaw (Canterbury), Leon MacDonald (Canterbury), Aaron Mauger (Canterbury), Ben May * (Tasman), Peter Nixon * (Canterbury), Kevin O’Neill (Canterbury), Jake Paringatai * *** (Northland), Michael Paterson * (Canterbury), Ti’i Paulo * (Canterbury), Tusi Pisi * *** (North Harbour), Jonathon Poff * (Tasman), Caleb Ralph (Canterbury), Kieran Read * (Canterbury), Isaac Ross * (Canterbury), Kevin Senio (Canterbury), Greg Somerville (Canterbury), Reuben Thorne (Canterbury), Rua Tipoki (Canterbury), Mose Tuiali’i (Canterbury), Brent Ward *** (Auckland), Paul Williams (Canterbury).

* Super 14 player.
** returning Super 14 player.
*** draft player.