Pre­tender to throne Cru­den out to un­seat cham­pion No 10 Carter

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

THE clash be­tween Cru­saders fly­half Daniel Carter and his Chiefs coun­ter­part Aaron Cru­den could prove cru­cial in to­day’s Su­per Rugby semi­fi­nal but it may also have longert­erm ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the New Zealan­ders look­ing ahead to the 2015 World Cup.

The 31-year-old Carter has vir­tu­ally owned the All Blacks’ No 10 jersey since 2004 and fended off all chal­lengers on the way to es­tab­lish­ing him­self as one of the great­est fly­halves ever to play the game.

How­ever, he has be­come what national coach Steve Hansen has de­scribed as a “red flag” ath­lete, whose work­load will need to be man­aged ahead of the All Blacks’ World Cup de­fence in Eng­land, par­tic­u­larly as he sus­tains more fre­quent in­juries.

The 24-year-old Cru­den has been con­sid­ered the pre­tender to Carter’s throne for a num­ber of years but only re­ally came into his own at the in­ter­na­tional level in the past 12 months, most notably against France last month.

The seven-time cham­pion Cru­saders en­ter the clash at Waikato Sta- dium as the form team of the com­pe­ti­tion, hav­ing thumped the Chiefs 43- 15 three weeks ago and then de­mol­ished the Queens­land Reds 38-9 in the play-offs last week.

Given the strug­gle ex­pected be­tween the packs and the pres­sure he will come un­der from the All Black- laden Cru­saders’ for­wards, Cru­den’s abil­ity to im­pose him­self on the game will be closely watched.

His kick­ing, game man­age­ment and abil­ity to at­tack the line and keep op­po­si­tion de­fences guess­ing could make the dif­fer­ence to­day and see the Chiefs host next week’s fi­nal, but his per­for­mance should also gauge whether he is ready to suc­ceed Carter sooner, rather than later.

Not that Cru­den is fo­cused on any of that.

“(For me, what is im­por­tant) I just think is do­ing my role,” Cru­den told the Waikato Times news­pa­per this week.

“That’s a ma­jor thing that we talk about in this team – if ev­ery­one does their own role then other guys aren’t hav­ing to worry too much about help­ing some­one else out.

“I know what I have to go out and do as a first-five, as a driver of the team, so if I’m able to do that and ex­e­cute that ac­cu­rately then hope­fully it will go a long way to­wards get­ting us the pos­i­tive re­sult.”

Carter, like the Cru­saders, has been in su­perb form in the run into the play-offs and last week against the Reds he com­pletely out­played coun­ter­part Quade Cooper, who has been re­called to the Wal­la­bies squad by new coach Ewen McKen­zie.

Carter’s runs at the Reds’ line cre­ated havoc as he was able to punch through the cen­tres and set up play­ers out­side, or link with loose for­wards run­ning off his in­side shoul­der.

He also kicked three penal­ties, three con­ver­sions and scored a try.

Cru­saders as­sis­tant coach Tabai Mat­son, a for­mer All Black cen­tre, said the coach­ing staff in Christchurch no­ticed Carter had stepped up his stan­dard of play and loves to rise to the chal­lenge.

“From match to match, Aaron Cru­den is as good as any­one in New Zealand,” he told TVNZ yes­ter­day.

“Dan Carter’s form has been out­stand­ing (and) ... I sup­pose one of the things about Dan is that he lifts to the chal­lenge and Aaron Cru­den’s chal­lenge is re­ally high for him, so he’s lift­ing his game, which is fan­tas­tic.” – Reuters

AP PHOTO

Daniel Carter

GALLO IM­AGES

Aaron Cru­den

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