Crusaders won't be slowed down by cancellation: Whitaker

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Saturday’s Super Rugby cancellation won’t dim the Crusaders momentum when they head to Sydney this week, NSW assistant Chris Whitaker says.

The Crusaders will be coming to Sydney after a hugely emotional weekend, with their match against the Highlanders ultimately cancelled because of a tragic terror attack in Christchurch.

Fifty people in Christchurch were killed in terror attacks at two mosques last Friday, with another 50 injured or still in hospital, leaving the small New Zealand city reeling.

Saturday's Super Rugby match was the first cancelled since earthquakes forced the Crusaders to cancel a clash with the Hurricanes in 2011 and the teams will share the points.

Waratahs assistant Chris Whitaker didn’t expect the cancellation to have a major impact on the momentum of last year’s title holders, who are currently on a Super Rugby record run of 19 wins that dates back to last season.

“As for having the week off, I don't think that matters too much,” he said.

“They're playing such good football at the moment.

“They’re the form team of the competition so it’ll be a good test for our defence.”

Whitaker’s more pressing concern is how the Waratahs much heralded attack can find its spark after a mediocre start to the season.

The Waratahs attack is yet to fire any serious shots in 2019, with Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley especially off to a slow start.

NSW has rotated its backline in the opening weeks and were forced into a late change with Karmichael Hunt suffering a last-minute hamstring injury but Whitaker said it was their poor handling that was costing them scoring chance rather than any disruptions.

“Last week we were going to play the same backline but Karmichael got pulled out with his hamstring,” he said.

“That was the intention to do the same thing but the late change forced us into that.

“The attack hasn't been firing at the moment, I think our turnovers, we just turned over too much ball.

“When we hang onto the ball we're doing okay things but I think we had 16 turnovers on the weekend and that's just too much.

“When you're having turnovers all over the park you just can't do it, especially the style of play where we want to hang onto the ball and play some attacking rugby.

“If you want to do that, you've got to hang onto the ball and you've got to cut down the errors.”

The Waratahs are hopeful of welcoming Hunt back into the lineup for the Crusaders match.

Prop Chris Talakai was the only injury concern out of last weekend’s outing, hurting his neck in Canberra and the Waratahs will assess him further on Monday.

The Waratahs take on the Crusaders at the SCG on Saturday March 23, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.