Super rivals quiver as Crusaders coil dangerously
Crusaders Sean Maitland makes a break against the Waratahs. AAP Image/Ross Setford
The Crusaders are now officially lurking around the 2012 Super Rugby winner’s hardware. They are rubbing their hands together and gravitating towards the prize like a porky kid’s stealthy approach to a buffet.
Over the last month or so, they have been posting reminders to the rugby universe of who they are.
Reality-checkers have been mailed to those who have enjoyed top billing from the public and bookies so far in 2012. Flyers have been sticky-taped to power poles to warn everyone else that they’re on their way.
It seems now they are ready to exercise their full rights to ownership of this competition and the sweet choccies it bestows upon it’s champion.
I’m admonishing myself for letting them slip from my memory as the shadow of the Chiefs and Stormers expanded this season. But I guess I can be forgiven after the modest beginnings of the Canterbury campaign this year.
Trying to take care of business in the early stages minus their sovereign talent duo of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter turned out to be a testing gig, and this showed with their uncharacteristic 3-3 record after six rounds.
Add to this the conceivable hangover of a sapping 2011 tilt where they were training on tarmac and playing home games in transit lounges, and it was natural for you to think that this could be one of those rare years where they just clock off and have a well-earned spell.
Nobody could begrudge them a basement season or two. Their trophy cabinet is even crying out for a Milo and a lie down, but it’s not the case.
The talented buggers are back and causing the title appellants to quiver. But really, is anyone surprised they’ve emerged from the bushes with a big stick?
Last night, they clinically flicked the playoff-aspiring Highlanders to the trash can with a 51-18 clobbering.
It was another short educational session on the scary and domineering Crusader vintage; a mosaic of surgical finesse, nasty power and spotless class for the full 80.
This takes their recent form line to 6 wins from their last 7 outings, which includes two trips past the half century and the mantle-worthy scalps of the Stormers and title-defending Reds.
They’ve now quietly sneaked into the party and are eyeing-off the seat at the head of the Kiwi table currently occupied by the Chiefs after boosting to within two competition points of the leaders.
There’s no doubt this will have the Waikato outfit’s swagger going from their current flowing Fonz-like gait to a more cautious and stiffer style of movement.
I also highly doubt that the South African conference front-runners will be bashing the jukebox in excitement either at the Christchurch team’s recent bout of attention-seeking.
The round 17 clash between the New Zealand heavyweights will be a monstrous traffic-stopping showdown and surely an unofficial conference final that will cease society’s operations in general for a couple of hours across the Tasman.
The Canterbury resurgence is driven by it’s diamonds. Their blue chip talent is heating up at the pace of an angry stove and it’s timed like a pedantic Swiss watch.
Israel Dagg, Robbie Fruean and Zac Guildford have been fine silk recently and their fire-eating forwards, lead by the world class Kieran Read, are unfairly hungry and war-like at times with the way they ride roughshod over rival packs.
And we haven’t even mentioned the once-in-a-generation Carter and McCaw who are of an even higher gold-mark than those mentioned above. It really is unfair in some ways.
Some may argue that the break for international commitments could stymie the snowball they’ve rolled. But it’s not as though the nucleus and it’s combinations will endure a massive deconstruct for this time as the majority will still be plying their trade together, only in a different coloured jersey.
The clutch rugby kings and their indomitable culture is once again flexing it’s considerable muscle at bean counting time.
It may feel like the 2012 Crusaders are a snake slowly climbing the ladder after a dozy opening.
Take a closer look. You will see they are a crafty rugby serpent that has been quietly coiling in preparation to strike when the time is right.
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