Blackadder's selection headache
Tue, 25 Feb 2014 11:23
There will be some hard calls
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will have a selection headache to deal with while choosing his side to play the Blues on Friday.
The seven-times champions underperformed in last week's 10-18 reverse at the hands of the Chiefs and the performance is certain to result in flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal's axing, with Colin Slade now available, but it is how Blackadder re-jigs the rest of his team that remains a mystery.
Captain and eightman Kieran Read was rested from the Super Rugby opener but is certain to start at Eden Park on Friday, meaning Luke Whitelock will make way for the All Blacks star.
The other selections seem less certain.
Blackadder said he was content with blindside flanker George Whitelock's efforts before he was replaced by Matt Todd in the 55th minute, but may be tempted to revamp his back row to allow the latter to start in the number seven jersey.
Todd, admittedly against a tiring opponent, motored through holes in the Chiefs defence on several ocassions and remains a handy fetcher at the breakdown.
If Todd starts against the Blues it would require Richie McCaw to shift to the less-preferred blindside role - something he did in the final 25 minutes against the Chiefs, and for George Whitelock to drop to the bench.
"There's a few selection headaches that we have got because everyone is playing well.
"George, in the time he was out there, actually played really well," Blackadder said.
"But certainly Matt Todd, when he came on, really made a huge impact. There will be some hard calls."
Blackadder, who must be bitterly disappointed that his side squandered their 20-month unbeaten streak in Christchurch, will want to send a message about individual accountability following a display full of poor goal kicking, inaccurate passing and clumsy handling.
With flyhalf Bleyendaal, who missed all of his five penalty attempts before being replaced by Tom Taylor at half-time, certain to be demoted, Blackadder has to decide whether to run Slade or Taylor at number 10 in the absence of Dan Carter who is on sabbatical.
Although centre Reynold Lee-Lo was solid against the Chiefs, there must be a temptation to shift Ryan Crotty to centre to allow All Blacks team-mate Taylor to start at inside centre.
The duo could straighten the attack and build a combination that could see the backline reproduce some of the form seen last last season.
Crusaders' wings Johnny McNicholl and Nafi Tuitavake were a mixed bag but it remains to be seen whether Zac Guildford, who played for the academy side last week, is in line for a re-call.
After dominating possession but wasting numerous scoring opportunities against the Chiefs, the challenge for the Crusaders this week is to execute the basics correctly.
"Goal kicking aside, we still had enough opportunities in the score zone," Blackadder acknowledged.
"We were in the right part of the field but just didn't put on enough pressure because of individual errors.
"We just can't afford to let teams off the hook," the coach addded.
Fairfax NZ News
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