Manawatu Standard

‘Mr Consistent’ in top echelon for Super kings

- Robert van Royen

Mitchell Drummond doesn’t want any fuss ahead of his 100th match for the Crusaders.

He’d rather all the focus goes on beating the Chiefs in Hamilton tonight. Accomplish­ing that will be the most fitting way to celebrate becoming the 20th Crusaders centurion.

‘‘To be honest, I just want to win on Saturday, so I’ve been trying to keep [this week] as simple as possible and the one thing that matters on Saturday night is that we perform, and if we do that then we give ourselves the best chance to get a win.’’

Of course, the 27-year-old halfback has known the milestone was looming since his family looked at the schedule ahead of the season and figured it would go down in Hamilton.

Having played 90 seconds on the wing in his 2014 debut against the Rebels in Melbourne, Drummond will become the youngest player to reach the milestone at the Christchur­chbased franchise.

Nelson-born Drummond cracked then Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder’s 2014 squad despite having played just one match for Canterbury in 2013, and earned just one cap behind Andy Ellis and Willi Heinz in his rookie year.

‘‘Looking back, it was really daunting. Not just Andy and Willi, but you look at some of the other names that were in the squad back then. To look around and see guys I’d only ever seen on [television] suddenly sitting next to me in the locker room was definitely really daunting,’’ Drummond reflected this week.

A serious injury to Heinz the following year resulted in ample minutes for Drummond and the rest is history.

He quickly became a key figure at the Crusaders, winning titles the past four years while sharing the job with Bryn Hall.

Knocking over the Lions in the 2017 final in South Africa, and playing in front of family in Nelson, are the memorable matches Drummond plucked out of the 99.

‘‘To be honest, it doesn’t seem quite right that my name is going to be up next to some of those boys that are not just legends of our club, but legends of the game. To think that my name is going to be up there as well, it doesn’t seem quite right just yet.’’

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who last year called Drummond the best finishing halfback in world rugby, this week labelled him ‘‘Mr Consistent’’.

‘‘He’s got the best out of all his talent, and he means a lot to this team.

He’s the youngest Crusader to get to the centurion mark, and that just sums up his work ethic and what this team means to him.’’

Drummond will start opposite All Black Brad Weber in a match the Crusaders have rested some of their heavy artillery for, including Sam Whitelock and Cullen Grace.

With just the Blues to follow in Christchur­ch next Sunday, the 5-1 red and blacks are in control of their own destiny, and in the box seat to clinch a home final onmay 8.

However, they’re not looking past the Chiefs, riding high on the back of three successive wins.

‘‘I think they’re a whole different team to what we played in the first round as well. They’ve obviously had a couple of wins in a row, which, naturally, brings a lot of confidence. So it should, they’ve been playing some good footy,’’ Drummond said.

Crusaders assistant coach Jason Ryan went as far as calling the Chiefs’ forward pack the most consistent in the competitio­n as of now – high praise after their early struggles this year.

Robertson agreed with Ryan, and made it clear the Crusaders had to be better at the breakdown after conceding numerous turnovers against the Hurricanes last weekend.

‘‘We learned a few lessons last week with Ardie [Savea] and their crew.

‘‘We focus on the breakdown every week, but it’s even more of a focus for us. They get their head on the ball really quickly and steal a lot of ball.’’

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Mitchell Drummond delivers a pass at Crusaders training in Christchur­ch on Thursday.
GETTY IMAGES Mitchell Drummond delivers a pass at Crusaders training in Christchur­ch on Thursday.
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