Crusaders

Carter to fight the odds

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As the Crusaders, against all expectations, get to ready to fly to Pretoria to prepare for their ninth Super 14 semi-final against the Bulls, they are likely to be bolstered by the return to action of, among others, star fly-half Daniel Carter.

Carter, along with winger Rico Gear and loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett, are all set to return to full fitness in time for Saturday’s semi-final.

Carter’s replacement, Stephen Brett, has had an impressive season, but a rather poor performance against last weekend’s crunch game against the Chiefs demonstrated once again the value of the special talent that is Dan Carter.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders are facing a unique challenge which they are yet to conquer in their towering Super 14 record.

They have never played a semi-final in South Africa, and, for a first time, they will have to make good at the daunting and intimidating venue of Loftus Versfeld – fortress of the ever imposing Bulls.

If they do manage a win, and the Blues do too against the Sharks, they will head back to Jade Stadium, Christchurch for the final. Such an outcome might be a devastating blow to the South African confidence after South African sides finished first and second for the first time in Super rugby history.

Meanwhile, legendary former All Black Grant Fox believes that the Crusaders have the tougher assignment out of the two New Zealand semi-finalists.

“It’s a massive ask for the Crusaders,” he told New Zealand radio.

“Loftus is a real fortress, and the style the Bulls have been playing is much more wide-ranging than usual.”

There are further indicators that the tide could be turning against the dominant Crusaders franchise.

A poll amongst New Zealand rugby fans has revealed that 83 percent believe both the Blues and the Crusaders will lose their semi-finals, in the wake of a renewed South African Super rugby intimdation.

But as ever, the Crusaders are to be discounted at one’s peril.

 

365 Digital

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