Careful control has Crusaders fizzing
Influential Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock believes the judicious management of the team's returning All Blacks has the seven-time Investec Super Rugby champions firing at the business end of the six-month competition.
The same sides clashed at the same stage at the same venue last year with the Chiefs prevailing, 20-17, against the listless Crusaders. Some of the Crusaders All Blacks seemed jaded after playing against Ireland in the June tests.
Whitelock said the Crusaders had identified that as being a problem and had addressed the issue with their All Blacks who had carried heavy workloads in the three tests against France either rested or named in the reserves against the Highlanders when the Super competition resumed.
"This year we were expected to play well when we came back. The whole squad and management embraced that challenge and when the All Blacks came back they were on the bench or didn't play," Whitelock said Crusaders training on Monday.
"Some guys like Luke Romano played three tests in a row and was pretty beaten up so Tom Donnelly [back-up lock] stepped in and played awesome and kept the competition going for positions."
Whitelock said careful management by the Crusaders had spared them from being flogged.
"We've been able to keep the bodies in shape and hopefully that's something we can keep doing – being smart rather than doing too much and being fresh when you go out there and not having heavy legs."
Whitelock was not prepared to accept that the Crusaders had inflicted psychological scars on the Chiefs after hammering them, 43-15, in Christchurch earlier this month.
"They'll be thinking the same. It doesn't matter what happened before or where you are on the table - you've just got to win this game."
A storming Whitelock break of 25m set up the Crusaders for one of their four tries against the Reds, but the 58-capped Crusader wasn't betting on himself to equal or better that stirring charge against the Chiefs.
"It doesn't really happen that often, maybe once every three of four years, so I don't think it will happen this week."