Whitelock steps up to world-class
Sam Whitelock's effort in the Crusaders' victory over the Stormers last weekend had coach Todd Blackadder believing that the All Blacks lock had taken his game to a new level.
But he said, Whitelock had reached 'a new level of maturity'.
"It was a world-class locking performance. He dominated [Springbok lock] Andries Bekker and the Stormers lineout and has taken his game to a new level," he said.
By putting pressure on the opposition throws, the Crusaders were able to dominate the lineouts and build from that. And everyone knew what Whitelock could contribute around the field and the display was an example of how much his game had advanced, he said.
Blackadder also said prop Wyatt Crockett's effort in changing from loosehead to tighthead after Owen Franks' injury was another feature that had largely gone unacknowledged but it was a phenomenal effort.
Whitelock's brother, and the captain in Kieran Read's absence, George said he had always known what Sam was capable of but it had been great to see him go out and do it.
"Sam has set the standard now. But the Sharks have had two weeks to prepare and they will have seen what he did against the Stormers so they will throw the ball away from him and that gives others the chance.
"He absolutely cleaned out Bekker and it was pretty outstanding," he said.
"It was only one game, but there is plenty more to come from him," he said.
Crockett said the effort in changing sides was something that he had been building up to in recent games with slowly more time being spent at tighthead but it had been daunting after Franks left the field about a quarter of the way through the game.
"The opposition were still fresh but I had good guys around me and that helped," he said.
Blackadder was delighted that Franks had made such a speedy recovery from a rib injury and had been able to train hard all week.
There would be no let-up in the forward intensity the Sharks would bring, but it would be a different type of game because they tended to move the ball more.
"We are ready for the Sharks. We are as best prepared as we can be. We don't fear them but we will have to go up a notch from last week. It will be a different game but we are prepared for that," he said.
"If you look at the Sharks, they know how to score tries. They can cut you to shreds," he said.
The challenge for the Crusaders would be to put the Sharks' tight five under pressure because that would determine how the rest of the side went.
He will have to do without Cory Flynn who had his eye scratched after training on Wednesday when doing some work-ons. The Crusaders had been lucky replacement Codie Taylor was able to catch the last flight out of Christchurch to allow him to get to Durban in time to take a place on the bench.
George Whitelock said the benefit of the Stormers win was proving to the younger players in the side that it was possible to beat the South African sides at home.
They were keeping focused on the smaller segments of the game rather than looking at any bigger pictures, although they were keen to do well in their last game against a South African side in the preliminary rounds of the competition, he said.
Crockett said he was having his most enjoyable year of Crusaders rugby and that had helped him make up his mind to re-sign with the New Zealand Rugby Union. He wanted to win an Investec Super Rugby title with the Crusaders and he had the World Cup in 2015 on his horizon.