Keo.co.za brings you the latest from New Zealand’s Super 14 sides.
Thorn still a doubt for Loftus clash
Brad Thorn could still miss this weekend’s semi-final against the Bulls at Pretoria, despite being included in the Crusaders’ travelling squad.
The Crusaders hard man was taken off in the 28th minute of the team’s win over the Reds in Christchurch, due to ‘tightness’ in a hamstring, which also ruled him out of Saturday’s 15-13 victory over the Blues.
So, while Thorn was in the 24-man Crusaders squad which left Christchurch Sunday, coach Todd Blackadder confirmed he is still an doubt for the semi-final clash.
‘He’s about 60-40 so he’s come back into the mix and we’ll just wait all week to see how Brad fares but, hopefully, he’ll be fit for this weekend,’ said Blackadder.
Should he miss out again, Blackadder has full confidence in likely replacement Michael Paterson, who had a strong showing against the Blues at the weekend.
‘It never ceases to amaze us how if we give guys an opportunity how they step into that role and play really well. I thought Michael Paterson had a huge game,’ said Blackadder.
‘Everyone who’s come in for an injured player has taken their opportunity and that’s the reason we are where we are, I believe.’
Aside from Thorn, utility back Colin Slade (ankle) and prop Ben Franks (foot) return from injury. Franks’ injury means Bronson Murray is the only player to drop out from the 22 that were victorious at Eden Park.
Déja vu for Saders coaching staff
The Crusaders are looking to repeat their own history and win the Super 14 after finishing fourth in the final log standings.
Only once before in the 14 years of Super Rugby has a team finished fourth in the round-robin stages and gone on to left the title.
That team was the 1999 Crusaders side which coach Todd Blackadder and his two assistants, Mark Hammett, and Daryl Gibson were all part of.
Back in 1999 the defending champions made it two titles in a row in the most unlikely fashion. First they went to the table-topping Reds in the semi-final, beating them 28-22 in a superb performance before overcoming the much fancied Highlanders in their own back yard in the final.
Now the trio find themselves in a similar position, with the side having to travel to the Bulls after finishing fourth on the log.
Hammett says he’s not normally one to usually compare eras, but in this case he’s found himself doing just that.
‘They’re all good and you don’t like to compare too much,’ Hammett told Rugbyheaven.co.nz. ‘But I have this week so I shouldn’t say I haven’t done it. I’ve compared it very much to our ’98-99 sides where we based lot of our buildup this year around our defence, because we wanted to get back to a real tough attitude, a real work ethic.
‘We know probably individually across the board we’re not as skillful as other sides. But we know as a team we can be the strongest team in the competition because we play as a team. We’ve got extremely good method.
‘Perhaps we don’t have the same X-factor players, but we stick to our method, we really believe in it and we know we’re always going to be there or thereabouts because our defence is so strong.’
Chiefs made to sweat over Kahui
Centre Richard Kahui is the Chiefs main injury concern ahead of this weekend’s semi-final encounter against the Hurricanes.
Kahui missed last Friday’s 10-7 home win over the Brumbies with a bruised calf and the Chiefs will be praying he recovers in time for this weekend’s game, having already lost influential scrumhalf Brendon Leonard (hamstring) and versatile prop Ben May (knee).
‘We’ve still got a bit of a question mark over Richard,’ said Chiefs coach Ian Foster. ‘We thought he was progressing very well towards the end of the last week, but his calf stiffened up after the testing and medically we’re a little bit perplexed about the slowdown in his progress.
‘We’ll be trying to find out as much as we can about that calf and see where it’s at, but he’s not quite as likely [to play] as we would have liked.’