'Exceptional' McCaw good to go
Fears that All Black captain Richie McCaw could be underdone at the start of the Crusaders' Super Rugby campaign were well and truly dispelled.
McCaw looks every bit like a man ready to hit the Super Rugby season at full tilt, after helping the Crusaders to a 40-15 pre-season win over the Hurricanes in Levin.
Coach Todd Blackadder was clearly pleased to see his skipper in such fine fettle, but wasn't giving much away in the selection stakes.
"I thought he [McCaw] had an exceptional 40 [minutes]," Blackadder told the New Zealand media.
"So did Matt Todd and George, but if you look at Richie I thought he played a really smart game.
"He didn't try to do too much, he just worked into the game and looked like he enjoyed himself.
"We'll have a selection meeting before we decide [if and where he'll play].
"We have to review this and make sure we get it right," the coach said of the team that will face the two-time defending champion Chiefs in Christchurch next Friday, February 21.
The Crusaders did, eventually show their championship potential; in the dress rehearsal in Lervin, but not until Blackadder injected McCaw, lock Sam Whitelock and halfback Andy Ellis after a lack lustre first half.
"It was a disappointing start to the game," the coach said.
"We didn't respect the ball enough, we turned the all over a lot and our line speed we didn't get any physicality or get off our heels," he said.
"We addressed a couple of things at half-time and the guys really responded.
"These games aren't easy and the Hurricanes played very well early. We probably got sat on our behinds at the start and had to work our way back."
Blackadder would have cringed at the sight of his first choice tight five being shunted off their own feed in the first half.
But he was thrilled with a defensive line-out that ruined the Hurricanes set piece in the second half.
"It's an area Dave Hewett coaches and we work hard at. The hard work paid off. The guys committed to it and set piece pressure in this game is so vital.
"There were a couple of momentum shifts there where our guys turned those lineouts over. We got on the front foot and that's the difference in these matches."
The Crusaders only injury concern from the match was flyhalf Colin Slade, who departed shortly before half-time and was limping badly on a heavily wrapped calf after the match.
"He's got more of a calf knock. It's a bruise more than anything, but its nothing too serious. Other than that we're pretty well unscathed," Blackadder said.
Source: Fairfax NZ News