Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has emphatically dismissed Sharks coach John Plumtree’s claim that the South African conference is the toughest.
Last week Plumtree said the Australian and New Zealand conferences weren’t nearly ‘as intense as ours here in South Africa’.
Asked for his thoughts on that issue, Blackadder said: ‘I’d be quite happy to swap with [Plumtree]. There are no easy teams in conference rugby.
‘At this end, the Highlanders and Crusaders and Chiefs-Blues showed how fiercely competitive the conference model is. Wait ’til you get down the track when you have a team ahead and all the other teams with nothing to play for [you'll find] how tough conference rugby is, because it’s basically like an All Black trial.
‘She’s tough, rugged rugby and one thing about it, too, a lot of pressure produces fine players. Everyone can see how you can handle pressure. It’s certainly not easy. It wouldn’t get any tougher than our conference.’
Meanwhile scrumhalf Andy Ellis was more straightforward in his view that there was no harder conference than New Zealand’s.
‘When I was playing the Super 12 and Super 14, those local games, the New Zealand games, were always the toughest by far. That’s just been doubled, really,’ he said, adding that the South African conference had a couple of ‘weaker teams’. ‘Certainly, the New Zealand conference is by far the strongest. We’re playing the toughest rugby week-in, week-out.’