Super Rugby
Crusaders refuse to bite on Tahs' 'soft underbelly'
July 31, 2014
Todd Blackadder says the Crusaders "if anything, we're too respectful" of the Waratahs © Getty Images

Super Rugby preview: final

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder believes he would be hugely mistaken to regard the New South Wales Waratahs forwards as a "soft underbelly".

Former All Blacks forward Craig Dowd wrote in his column for ESPN this week: "The soft underbelly of the Waratahs team is in the forward pack, and I think the Crusaders will target the forward pack on Saturday night and play their own game. The Waratahs-Brumbies game was messy, and the Brumbies at one point exposed the Waratahs scrum. I am sure the Crusaders will have taken notice of that because they have an even better scrum; they will target the Waratahs' scrum, which has been their Achilles heel for most of the season."

Blackadder accepted that set-pieces were a strength of his side, but he stressed the Crusaders were "too smart" to agree with Dowd.

"We know that the Waratahs aren't the side that they are because they've got a soft underbelly," Blackadder said. "They haven't shown that all year. I think psychology-wise that would be a huge mistake. That's not the murmurings within our camp. If anything, we're too respectful. I think if you respect your opponent, you will prepare well."

New South Wales Waratahs' Sekope Kepu goes on a tear, New South Wales Waratahs v Highlanders, Super Rugby, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, July 6, 2014
Sekope Kepu and the Waratahs are unconcerned by perceptions about their pack © Getty Images

Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu said the pack had worked hard on the set-pieces this week, and they weren't fretting about being targeted in those areas.

"It doesn't worry me at all," Kepu said.

Crusaders captain Kieran Read, meanwhile, disagreed with other members of the camp, including Blackadder, who said the Waratahs had surrendered home advantage by playing the final at ANZ Stadium rather than the more intimate, but much smaller, Allianz Stadium.

Blackadder on Wednesday described ANZ Stadium as a "neutral stadium", but Read said with Waratahs officials confident of drawing a Super Rugby-record crowd of more than 55,000 spectators "they've got even more people screaming for them".

Read was more intent on focusing on the Crusaders' rate of improvement through the season, which he believed had his side in good stead for the finale.

"It's important that we don't just stop now," Read said.

"You've got to improve again. We'll have to be better this week than we were last week and we've got to put our best game out there this week if we want to win."

Do you agree or disagree with Craig Dowd? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or by posting on Twitter using the hashtag #SoftUnderbelly?


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