Crusaders

Deans no fan of conditioning programme

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Crusaders coach Robbie Deans says he is “over the moon” that his side has qualified for the play-offs, in the face of the immense obstacle that has been the All Blacks World Cup conditioning programme.

The programme saw 22 of New Zealand’s elite players sidelined from action for the first seven rounds of the competition.

“We supported it because that was meant to be the best thing and we want them [All Blacks] to succeed,” Deans told NZPA.

“But I’ll give you this much, I’d like to think we won’t be going through that again.

“To get thrown into the middle of a competition with no pre-season background is very, very hard. And it showed through breakage [injuries] and we anticipated that,” Deans said.

“The Hurricanes are a case in point, in the way some of the individuals struggled to get going.”

Among his six returnees, lock Chris Jack and fly-half Daniel Carter had been sidelined with injury.

What Deans is saying that not only did sides like the Crusaders suffer from the absence of their big stars, but they also suffer as a result of these players entering the business end of the competition somewhat off the pace.

“Our players spoke of the soreness they experienced. It wasn’t easy but they did very well. They produced some outcomes while grappling with fitting into the mix and coping with the stresses and strains.”

The likes of Aaron Mauger, Chris Jack, Reuben Thorne, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are, Deans says, playing at the level they would normally in the third or fourth round of the competition.

“That’s essentially it, we still lack the full background,” he said.

“Normally at this point we’ve got a team who have been through a whole campaign and yet we’re still covering detail.”

But as a result Deans is overjoyed and proud of the squad effort which has seen them in contention for yet another title despite the setbacks.

“If you said to us back in December that we’d make the playoffs, we’d be over the moon. And we are,” he said.

“It was a huge challenge just to get here. We’re here now and we’re pretty keen to push on.”

The Crusaders mastermind also believes that the conditioning programme has been the catalyst for the renewed strength of the South Africans.

“The intervention from New Zealand left the door ajar to some extent early,” he said.

“When you give a capable group a bit of a sniff, they tend to get pretty excited and want to push on and make the most of it.”

He did note that the playing standard in the earlier rounds was below par when compared to previous years.

“And that was probably more of a reflection of some of the challenges at home. It was self-induced in many ways, due to the withdrawal of the 22 players,” he said.

“I think we’ve seen in the latter half of the competition, it’s just got better.

“The quality of the rugby in the last half has been pretty remarkable.”

 

365 Digital

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