New challenge for Crusaders in 2020

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He and Angus Gardiner had worked hard on their recruitment with that in mind and the evidence of their work woulde be seen when the Crusaders take the field against the Waratahs in Nelson on Saturday.

 

Robertson said it was an exciting time because it involved a changeover in leadership at one level while also rewarding the patience a lot of players had shown in waiting for the opportunity they now had.

 

"We've got a great group and these guys want to make their own names," he said.

 

 

 

All Black wing George Bridge was being given another week to freshen up while it was also a chance to reward Leicester Faingaanuku for what Robertson said had been 'an incredible pre-season'.

 

Oli Jager was similarly rewarded in the front row while Codie Taylor's minutes were managed with him starting off the bench.

 

Robertson said starting lock Cullen Grace reflected the exceptional work he had put in both with the Crusaders and in Mitre 10 rugby over the last two years and with injury to Quinten Strange it was a great opportunity for Grace, especially with his ability to cover two or three positions.

 

New captain Scott Barrett was a quiet leader, Robertson said, but there were a lot of voices in the side that he could call on with Taylor and David Havili as his vice-captains providing good balance.

 

"I think his leading will be from his performances on the field," he said.

 

Managing returning All Blacks was also part of the equation with the requirements to ease them back into play.

 

"We're mindful if we give them an early rest, later on down the track we can choose which game they are required to rest and our byes are quite nicely timed to do that.

 

"Then we get a bit of a run with [the South African tour] before the finals. So we can manage them at the back end if we manage them at the front," he said.

 

The process had been harder to manage last year when the side had 13 All Blacks on the books.

 

"But we've still got eight…we try and make it as positive as we can and look at it as an opportunity for others and manage them coming back in so they're peaking at the right time," he said.

 

 

 

Going up against former Cantabrian Rob Penney, who is coaching the Waratahs, was a nice moment, he said.

 

Penney had been the first person to give him an opportunity as an assistant coach with Canterbury in 2008.

 

"I regard him as a mentor and a good friend and a good man. He's got a great rugby mind and the rugby journey has got him to Aussie. It's incredible. I wouldn't have expected him to be coaching the Waratahs but I know why he is because he's a very good coach," he said.

 

"I was fortunate to spend four years with him and to really dig deeper into how he got his teams to function at such a level. He's very successful and I'm really thankful to him for it," he said.

 

Robertson expected the Waratahs would play with width because that was the Penney brand. The Australians had promoted a lot of younger players and that was the case for a lot of sides in the Super Rugby cycle, they were talented and he would want to use them.

 

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