Super Rugby talking points: How latest Crusaders loss will really hurt the Blues
There were elements of the ‘old’ Crusaders in their 34-28 win over the Blues on Saturday: the desperation in defense (Richie Mo’unga), guys showing heroism when clearly injured (Leicester Fainga’anuku) , and the series pushing of the envelope within their defensive 22m (choose).
However, there were still signs of the Crusaders’ slightly more fragile release in 2023 as they kept handing the Blues chances of victory.
The hosts weren’t good enough to take them and it could really hurt them by the end of the competition.
Super Rugby Pacific is a race – a sprint to secure the top two spots in the leaderboard and home advantage in the final.
* Scott Robertson delighted as the Crusaders own their ‘big moments’ in Super Rugby Pacific win over the Blues
* Crusaders win Blues 34-28 in a top-flight Super Rugby Pacific clash
* Ireland claim the Six Nations Grand Slam title with a 29-16 win over 14-man England in Dublin
* Dan Carter, the most gifted athlete the former Crusaders’ fitness guru has worked with
* Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting says the looming NRLW threat is “definitely” a problem
* Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs overcome slow start to hold off Rebels 44-25 in Hamilton
Yes, the Crusaders won the decider at Eden Park last year, but if you don’t finish in the top two you probably need to win at least twice on the road – and that cost the Brumbies and Chiefs last year.
The Blues’ inability to crack the Crusaders in the dying phase means they are now 2-2 for the season, the same record as the Crusaders.
One of those two teams will lose again this year as they meet again in Christchurch in May.
Both will also face the Chiefs in Hamilton, and teams that lost four all ended up outside the top two last year.
So the tough question for the Blues to ask is: can they navigate the rest of the campaign when the error rate has already reduced?
Cam Roigard continues to impress
Don’t hold your breath for many – if any – capless players to charge into the All Blacks and do a Nehe Milner-Skudder in 2023.
Shaun Stevenson is clearly impressive, but some doubts must be lurking among All Blacks selectors: the Chiefs full-back didn’t even make the original All Blacks XV touring roster last year.
Perhaps it’s his habit of turning off just a touch when an attempt seems inevitable. He capitalized on a golden opportunity in the All Blacks XV’s loss to the Barbarians last year and would have come pretty close to throwing the ball over the line against the Rebels on Saturday. It’s a tiny question mark over an obviously talented person.
Hurricanes halfback Cam Roigard would also have to be in early All Blacks talks. He’s strong and fast, but his not-so-secret weapon is his left-footed kicking game.
The new No. 10, Brett Cameron, has a handy right boot, so Roigard’s long and precise boot gives the Hurricanes a nice balance. The core skills in Roigard’s game are excellent.
The missing name in All Blacks chat
It may be too early for Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan to be one of the names mentioned in the possible broader coaching groups assembled by Scott Robertson and Jamie Joseph, but he’s headed in that direction.
There are echoes of Dave Rennie in McMillan – and judging by the number of children in the crowd in Hamilton on Saturday they got the local community involved.
McMillan flipped the Chiefs. Yes they have good all blacks but the key was getting the best out of players like Samipeni Finau, Rameka Poihipi and Emoni Narewa. The latter is a McMillan favorite – he coached him at the Bay of Plenty – and McMillan looks like a coach who strikes the right balance between forging connections with players and showing who’s boss.
Super Rugby Round 4
At Sky Stadium, Wellington: Hurricanes 34 (Cam Roigard 2 attempts 19min, 51min, Kini Naholo 2 attempts 29min, 54min, Dane Coles attempt 70min; Jordie Barrett pen, 3 con) Warata 17 (Nemani Nadolo attempts 14 minutes, Max Jorgensen attempts 23 minutes, Langi Gleeson attempts 74 minutes attempts; Ben Donaldson con). HT: 17-12
At FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton: Chiefs 44 (Rameka Poihipi tries 21 mins, Emoni Narawa tries 34 mins, Shaun Stevenson tries 37 mins, 45 mins, Tyrone Thompson 42 mins, Etene Nanai-Seturo 53 mins; Bryn Gatland 4 con, 2 pen) rebels 25 (Alex Mafi attempts 11 minutes, Stacey Ili attempts 39 minutes, Nick Jooste attempts 48 minutes, David Feliuai attempts 74 minutes; Carter Gordon con, Reece Hodge pin). HT: 27-15
At Eden Park, Auckland: Crusaders 34 (Fergus Burke attempt 16 minutes, Ethan Blackadder attempt 21 minutes, Leicester Fainga’anuku 3 attempts 32 minutes, 37 minutes, 46 minutes; Richie Mo’unga pen, 3 disadvantages), blues 28 (Mark Telea tries 7 minutes, Caleb Clarke tries 24 minutes, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries 28 minutes, Stephen Perofeta tries 55 minutes; Beauden Barrett 4 cons). Height: 24-21.
At Invercargill Rugby Park: Highlanders 43 (Jonah Lowe 2 attempts 14min and 70min, Mitch Hunt attempts 40min, Sam Gilbert attempts 47min, Sean Withy attempts 60min, Hugh Renton attempts 76min; Sam Gilbert 5 con, pen) Western Forces 35 (Zach Kibirige attempt 35 minutes, Tom Horton 43 minutes, Bryce Hegarty attempt 50 minutes, Siosifa Amone attempt 80 minutes, Ollie Callan attempt 82 minutes; Hegarty with 2 pins, Bayley Kuenzle with). HT: 15-13