Super Rugby

Lions inexperience could benefit Crusaders




The Lions inexperience in Super Rugby play-offs will add extra pressure in their quarter final against the Crusaders in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, who knows better than most the requirements of play-offs rugbt both as a player and coach, said while the majority of Lions players had two weeks to prepare for the game, being a quarterfinal would still create some doubts in their minds.

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While the Lions had rested several players from the trip to Buenos Aires, the Crusaders had the benefit of a pressure game and the good thing about that was they were taught a really good lesson on how to handle the pressure.

“I feel like we’re going to this game absolutely fresh and ready to take those lessons about high-pressure rugby where everything is at stake,” said Blackadder on the All Blacks site.

“The Lions will come out, they’re at home, they’ll be excited to play and we’ve just got to put them under pressure and if we do that then we’ll give ourselves a bloody good chance,” he said.

Blackadder also pointed to the two early tries they scored on their last visit to Ellis Park earlier in the year from turnover counter attack and it had set up their eventual victory. That had been a strength of the side this year.

The best way to describe the Lions was that it was like playing against another New Zealand team.

“They throw the ball around a lot, they’ve got a lot of variation and we expect them to do that,” he said.

Going into their shell and playing a territory game would play into the Crusaders’ hands so he wasn’t expecting the Lions to change the way they play.

The Crusaders’ defensive form was good at the right time of the season and last week in making 179 tackles they had achieved a world-class success rate of 91 percent. But what had been shown still was that the one or two tackles they did miss could be very harmful.

“While we were making the tackles we were making them on the gain-line or the back foot then we’d give it straight back to them so we’ll be smarter than that this week, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

Halfback Andy Ellis was under pressure to come through Thursday’s training run to show that his calf muscle had recovered because the side wanted to make the earliest call if he needed to be replaced.

Blackadder said the reason for Scott Barrett’s non-inclusion in the starting XV was because they were looking to Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano’s experience to put in a big effort against the Lions in the lineouts. And he was looking for Barrett and the other bench players to come on and give the side a real edge in the game.

“If we have to win the game in the last 20 minutes then we have got the players to do that. We look at Scott Barrett as more of an off-loader and a different kind of skill set than what Luke would coming off the bench so we’re going to use Luke’s physicality and his experience to get out there and hopefully get us on the right foot early,” he said.

“I think our bench is going to be critical to our success on the weekend so it’s making sure they’re really clear on the detail and they can execute under pressure.”

There was a lot of time and effort going into making sure everyone could contribute to the performance.

“The good thing about being on tour is we’ve got a little bit more time to do that so I think this week is really good and will work in our favour,” he said.

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