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Crusaders scrape home!
Crusaders scrape home!
(A Mehrts-less Crusaders managed to eventually subdue a stubborn & aggressive Sharks outfit)
A Mehrts-less Crusaders managed to eventually subdue a stubborn & aggressive Sharks outfit on a shitty Christchurch Friday evening. After last weekends hammering of the pathetic Cats, it looked like the Crusaders where just starting to find the form that took them through the 2002 S12 campaign unbeaten. The weather, complacency & the Sharks has them back looking like a team that isn't quite "there"...yet! Despite seemingly struggling most of the season, the Crusaders are still outright third. In fact before the Blues & the Hurricanes had played their games, the Crusaders where equal 1st! Keeping in mind the Hurricanes have yet to play a bye. If you take a step back & consider the Crusaders have played most of the season without one of the best 1st fives in the game (the best has to be Jonny Wilkinson), being without their playmaker, and STILL being in there with a chance of the title, is a remarkable effort. Chuck in Marshall's suspension, & I think the Crusaders will be looking forward to having both players back for their African sojourn. In fact I would go as far as too say if the Crusaders do consolidate their position & make the semi's, keeping in mind a home semi certainly isn't out of the question just yet, the other teams who are lucky to make the semi's will be looking at them with some trepidation. A sleeping giant about to awaken perhaps? What seems to have been lost in all the hoopla regarding the Blues & Hurricanes is that neither team has won 4 of the last 5 S12's. Underestimate the Crusaders at your own peril. Something that is extremely positive for NZ rugby is the likely prospect of having 4 teams in the semi's. When youo run through all 4 NZ teams in the hunt, John Mitchell must be rubbing his hands in glee! World Cup year & our cup overfloweth! Its good that this season's AB's won't be dominated by the Crusaders. Last year's tri-nations, the form of the team demanded that they dominate selection (although the extent in which that happened surprised most Cantabs even!). This year you get the feeling any weak links that may have existed in last years AB's are being well & truly filled. Jerry Collins & his bad run of injuries cost him a No.6 spot last year. Chuck in Olivers achilles tendon rupture, Rueben Thorne had to be No.6 & Captain given he was outplaying the only other contender in Taine Randall. This year Collins looks likely to finally gain the position that is his. Oliver looks a shoe-in for the hookers position & the AB captaincy. Thorne will be lucky to make the squad given his quiet season. I'm going to name my AB team below. I do so with a smile on my face as it looks bloody awesome! I'II bracket players where its a eithor/or situation & give a summation of form 15. Cullen/MacDonald He's looking back to his old sharpness & keeness. Great stuff! However if Spencer plays Macca might get the nod for his kicking abilities. 14. Howlett Best winger in the country - no doubt. 13. Umanga Playing 2nd five because of the form of the guy with the "Mork & Mindy" sounding name. Nanoo Nanoo! 12. Mauger. A Despite of the poor boor he has got this season, still has a touch of class about him. Strong on defensive, good kicking abilities, & good on his feet & a great distributor. The perfect 2nd five skills. 11. John Doe Have no bloody idea! Lomu is out. Ralph? No. The vast number of Fijians playing at the moment? No. Maybe Brad Fleming? Roger Randle? No. Honestly don't know. Maddock should get the nod! :-) 10. Mehrtens/Spencer If Mehrts is fit then he is in. However if his injuries continue its time for Spencer to step up & show he's not a choker in the really big games. Spencer is maturing as a player. 9. Marshall/Devine With Kellaher seemingly out of favour for the Highlanders, Devine is looking good for a spot. Marshall always seems to be there or thereabouts. Hard to judge this spot at the moment. 8. Sooalo Rodney has been smashing them all season. Scott Robertson has lost his AB spot. 7. McCaw No doubt. Simply awesome. 6. Collins. J ditto 5. Jack The man monster continues his great form. 4. Maling Terrific ball winner. Outplayed his only really competitor in Ali Williams. 3. Hewitt/Hoeft Two powerful props! Great position to be in. 2. Oliver Looks back to his best after injury. 1. Somerville/Meeuws Another two powerful props! I honestly think the years AB's are looking very strong. Testiment to the excellent form shown by NZ's S12 teams! For the rest of the S12 I hope the Crusaders start kicking into gear! GO THE CRUSADERS!!!!

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FOUR AUCKLANDERS!!!????? You are a dead man DH...
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