Crusaders lose leader Whitelock against Blues
The revelation Sam Whitelock won’t play the Blues has cappedoff a zany week.
At any other time the news Crusaders captain Whitelock had been crook, and therefore excused from the match in Auckland on Saturday night, might have created some tasty headlines for news organisations starved of fodder. But this has been no ordinary week, and therefore lock Whitelock’s omission barely created a ripple.
‘‘He wasn’t feeling great early in the week, so we just made a call – to give him a chance to freshenup,’’ Crusaders coach Scott Robertson explained.
Openside flanker Matt Todd takes over the captaincy. Quinten Strange will start in the second row alongside Scott Barrett, and loosehead prop Tim Perry replaces the suspended Joe Moody. In other changes Owen Franks and Heiden BedwellCurtis start at tighthead prop and No 6 respectively, and Ryan Crotty and David Havili return to the backline.
Moody warmed things up this week when he pleaded guilty to clobbering Waratahs midfielder Kurtley Beale last weekend, accepting a two-week ban.
Then All Blacks captain Kieran Read made a shock return to training, his first outing on the training paddock this year.
This was followed by Leon MacDonald, who last year activated a clause to allow him to exit his job as Crusaders assistant backs coach so he could return with his family to Blenheim, announcing he would join archrivals, the Blues, on a three-year term. Just when we thought we had seen it all, Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach announced he would end his 17-year tenure at the end of the season because he was taking-up a job as boss of the Ashburton District Council.
The concept of MacDonald, who several years ago had resisted an invite by former Blues coach John Kirwan to move north, guiding the Blues might make some diehard Crusaders supporters spray their porridge over the kitchen table.
Robertson wanted MacDonald to fulfil his two-year deal at the Crusaders, but couldn’t convince him to stay. ‘‘He (MacDonald) wanted to be a Super coach, he had a couple years contract with us and opted out after the first year and then obviously wanted to get back to Super coaching,’’ Robertson said. ‘‘He has gone up to be an Aucklander, all the best to him and his family. When he was here, I tried everything I could possibly do to keep him here and he made his decision for his family to head to Blenheim, as he told us, and now he is a Blue.’’ Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd (captain), Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 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.
Kieran Read had surgery on his spine in December and hopes to be back playing in July.