All Blacks and Crusaders look a match made in heaven
The Steinlager Series, where the All Blacks defeated France 3-0, involved a healthy contingent of Crusaders players, who were involved in what has become a mass debate around this time of year – are Investec Super Rugby teams given a boost or disadvantaged by June Test commitments?
Sometimes it is physical exhaustion, sometimes it is a mental letdown, but the Crusaders All Blacks are proving the opposite can also be true, and more than a couple of prominent New Zealand stalwarts are showing that involvement with the World Champions has filtered into remarkable form for the most successful Super Rugby franchise in history.
Startlingly for their rivals, when those players are captain Kieran Read, backline general Dan Carter, once again (despite the enthusiastic challenge of the likes of Folau and Halfpenny) Israel Folau is showing why he is rated among the game’s best fullbacks, while Sam Whitelock and Owen Franks would stroll into most world XVs.
This is a historically important factor in determining Super Rugby winners.
And to think, these impressive ranks are potentially about to be bolstered by a 116-Test veteran by the name of Richie McCaw.
For one suspects, if a now record long – for the seven-time winners – drought without ultimate success is to be broken, 2013 is the year, even if they will have to duplicate previous Crusaders’ team’s feats and win an away Super Rugby Final if they are to win title number eight.
The top ranked wildcard qualifiers will wait on the fitness of Tom Taylor, who suffered a severe head injury in his team’s 25-17 win over the Hurricanes, while Corey Flynn, who also left the field with a knock, is expected to play.
If Taylor is ruled out, Tyler Bleyendaal would come into the starting line-up, and this could mean a shift for Carter into the midfield to shore up the centre defensive channel.