Robertson’s bag of tricks for Blues
Blues in the final two decades ago, has been doing all he can to convince his players that the northerners are still capable of unleashing a sucker punch.
The trick is to make sure his men are listening. To ram the message home Robertson asked his staff to dig into past match footage to, hopefully, get their pulses racing.
‘‘I love a video,’’ Robertson admitted. ‘‘I love telling stories through pictures and music and stuff. Usually we put something together to entice a few emotions and show what history has gone by and how tough these games are.’’
Recent results make for tough reading for Blues supporters; the Crusaders have won their last six games against them, the longest winning streak in the history of the fixture.
Last year the Blues appeared to have the Crusaders’ heads on the block in Christchurch when they led 21-5 at halftime, but had no answer to the home side’s dominant set pieces and driving mauls in the second stanza as they slumped to a 33-24 loss.
Robertson, like a teacher relaying messages to his pupils, likes to make a point through storytelling; as a player he recognised the Blues as the real enemy and to ignore the past would be ill-advised.
‘‘To know where you are going, you have to know where you come from and history is really critical for making sure the boys understand what games have been (played in the past), and how they tough they are.
‘‘We have reflected on the good and bad … history has been covered.’’
Adding some spice to this encounter is the recent news that former Crusaders assistant coach Leon MacDonald, who left the franchise with a year left on his contract after they won the title last season, has agreed terms to be an assistant at the Blues from next year.
The decision to rest captain and lock Sam Whitelock is a calculated gamble. Robertson will hope the giant All Black returns refreshed for the blockbuster against the Hurricanes in Christchurch on May 25 – a game that could determine the top team in the Kiwi conference – and in doing has placed his trust in Scott Barrett and Quinten Strange to do a job in the second row.
Reinforcements in the form of tighthead prop Owen Franks and second five-eighth Ryan Crotty, both were rested from the Waratahs game, could be viewed as compensation in terms of providing advice to stand-in skipper Matt Todd if things gets tight. Robertson will be hoping it doesn’t come to that.
Operating a disciplined defensive line to suffocate the attacking prowess of Sonny Bill Williams and Rieko Ioane will be paramount said former Blues halfback Bryn Hall, who transferred to the Crusaders last year.
‘‘The amount of talent they have there, it is going to click sometime,’’ Hall said.
‘‘Being able to take away their time and space, they have a lot of x-factor and a lot of great individuals who can beat you one on one and put you in a lot of trouble.’’ Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd (captain), Heiden BedwellCurtis, Quinten Strange, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Tim Perry. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett, Mike Alaalatoa, Mitchell Dunshea, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele Blues: Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai, Orbyn Leger, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu (captain), Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii/Murphy Taramai, Jerome Kaino, Matiaha Martin, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Ofa Tuungafasi, James Parsons, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Matt Moulds, Ross Wright, Sione Mafileo, Ben Nee-Nee, Murphy Taramai/Antonio Kiri Kiri, Jonathan Ruru, Dan Kirkpatrick, Michael Collins. Referee: Glen Jackson Kickoff: 7.35pm
Coach Scott Robertson (right) talks tactics with assisstant Brad Mooafr earlier this week.