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R.I.P Norman Berryman

R.I.P. Norman Berryman

New Zealand Rugby said on Tuesday that cult hero “Stormin” Norman Berryman has died at the age of 42.

Reports said Berryman suffered a heart attack at his home near Perth, Australia, where he settled after his rugby career.

Berryman, a powerful winger, was a fan favourite during a long career in Super Rugby but played just 1 Test for the All Blacks, a 23 / 24 loss to South Africa in 1998.

He was widely considered to be unlucky to miss out on more Test caps but was competing for spots against the likes of Jonah Lomu and Inga Tuigamala.

Berryman also did himself no favours with his outspoken criticism of then All Blacks coach John Hart, who he said “has got a vibe about him that projects negativity”.

He famously walked out of an All Blacks training camp in Auckland and hitch-hiked home to Whangarei after a disagreement with Hart.

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CrusadersSaracens RugbyAn ambitious plan to stage a match between New Zealand’s Crusaders Knights and English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans has been cancelled.

The planned fixture on 1 August at New Orleans’ 70 000-capacity SuperDome was designed to capitalise on growing US interest in Rugby Union.

However, the fixture – just like the Independence Cup match, an encounter between the newly formed NRFL Rough Riders and English Premiership giants Leicester Tigers – has become a victim of the ongoing battle between USA Rugby and RugbyLaw.

USA Rugby is the recognised national controlling body registered with World Rugby, while RugbyLaw is planning to launch a new professional league, the NRFL, in the United States.

However, USA Rugby declined to sanction the encounter between Tigers and the Rough Riders – because the Rough Riders are not registered with USA Rugby.

Now the dispute between USA Rugby and RugbyLaw have claimed another victim.

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CrusadersThe Crusaders have re-signed a number of their current players who come off contract at the end of this season, including All Black Ryan Crotty and centre Robbie Fruean.

After prop Wyatt Crockett’s re-signing until the end of 2018 was announced earlier this week, Crotty signed up until the end of 2017. Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder said both players would play an important role in next year’s squad both on and off the field, as 2 of the senior members of the squad.

Dynamic centre Fruean will return in 2016, determined to show more of the flair that we saw in the few games he was able to play this season. Fruean had his season cut short by a fractured arm sustained in the 3rd Round, but made an impressive return from injury to assist his team to wins against the Hurricanes and Blues recently. Blackadder said he had made an immediate impact when he returned to play and he looks forward to seeing him inject more of that power and punch into the Crusaders backline next season.

Joining Crockett and already contracted Owen Franks at prop again next season will be Tim Perry. Perry has had a frustrating season on the sidelines after an injury sustained in the 2014 National Provincial Championship semifinal, however Blackadder said he is a quality player who is getting back to his best and he is sure that he will be ready to make an impact in 2016.

Codie Taylor, who has impressed at hooker this year, will also return in 2016. Blackadder said he had made strides in his setpiece skills this season and his attacking abilities give him an exciting edge.

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Nepo Laulala

Nepo Laulala

The Chiefs have signed 23 year-old tighthead prop Nepo Laulala for the next 2 years.

At 1.84m and 116kg, the young prop’s ITM Cup and Super Rugby form caught the attention of the Chiefs, who swooped to nab him from the Crusaders.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said, “Nepo is a powerful and explosive tighthead who has made a big impression over the past couple of seasons. He’s a good man with high aspirations who we believe will make a positive contribution in our environment.”

Laulala attended Wesley College in South Auckland and was part of the school’s First XV side. He joined the Canterbury Academy and made his 1st appearance for their ITM Cup side in 2011.

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Wyatt Crockett

Wyatt Crockett

All Blacks and Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett will continue to play his rugby in New Zealand and for the Crusaders for another 3 years, having re-signed through to the end of the 2018 season.

Crockett has been a vital member of the Crusaders’ front row since 2006 and made his All Blacks debut in 2009.

He was named the New Zealand Super Rugby Player of the Year in 2011 and has established himself as an All Blacks regular since 2013.

Crockett recently became the most capped-Crusader, surpassing Corey Flynn’s record of 151 games, and 3rd on the all-time list and his re-signing will give him the chance to become the most capped Super Rugby player ever (currently Keven Mealamu who is on 174 caps).

His work rate around the field sets him apart from many other props, and he is also recognised as one of the most skilled scrummagers in the game.

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Sam Whitelock

Sam Whitelock

Kieran Read

Kieran Read

The Crusaders’ fast-fading hope of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs were dealt another cruel blow.

It was revealed that 5 of the team’s All Blacks have been ruled out of the encounter with the tournament’s runaway leaders, the Hurricanes, in Nelson on Friday.

Top of that list is lock Sam Whitelock, who has the recipient of a brutal double spear tackle by 2 Waratahs players – lock Will Skelton and hooker Silatolu Latu.

The duo were handed 2 and 4-week bans on Monday, following their combined actions.

Whitelock has been ruled out of the trip to Nelson due to concussion.

Captain Kieran Read has already been ruled out of the match with the same affliction.

The Crusaders will also be without fullback Israel Dagg (calf), flyhalf Colin Slade (quadricep) and prop Joe Moody (foot).

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CrusadersSaracens RugbyNew Zealand’s Crusaders announced on Wednesday they will play English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans on 1 August, in a fixture designed to capitalise on growing US interest in rugby.

The Crusaders, 7-time Super Rugby champions, said they will field their development side for the 1-off fixture at the 70 000 capacity SuperDome.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the match, to be called The Hemispheres Cup, was a rare north-south club clash.

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Tabai Matson

Tabai Matson

Crusaders Assistant Coach Tabai Matson has confirmed that he is committed to his current role at the Crusaders, despite reports linking him with the Blues.

Matson said he wanted nothing more than to help the Crusaders towards the Super Rugby Finals Series this season and he was sorry about any unnecessary distraction that the speculation around his future has caused.

“I love this team and I certainly was not out looking for a new coaching role because I am very happy here. It is true that I was approached by the Blues about whether I would consider a move to their coaching team in the future should the opportunity arise.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Black legend Dan Carter insists he’s not assured of a spot in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad.

Carter, 33, is regaining his form in this year’s Super Rugby competition, despite his Crusaders team not being the most consistent.

However, in their most recent match the Crusaders smashed the Reds 58 / 17 in Christchurch and Carter showed signs that he is returning to his past form.

“It feels like my form has been getting better as the season has gone on and really enjoying getting a bit of game time,” Carter said.

“I’ve almost played twice as many games as I played last year so that’s encouraging as long as my form is heading in the right direction then I’m happy with that.”

Carter said there are no guarantees that he’ll make the World Cup touring party.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

A host of Crusaders could be playing their last ever Super Rugby match in Christchurch as the 7-time champs play host to the Reds this Friday.

Tom Taylor, Colin Slade, Dan Carter and Willi Heinz have all announced that they will be heading offshore after this season and Richie McCaw has also indicated that it could be his final season, which means it could be the last chance for Christchurch fans to see them in action for the Crusaders.

Friday night marks the team’s final game in Christchurch this season, unless they qualify for the Finals Series and earn the right to host.

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Wyatt Crockett

Wyatt Crockett

Head coach Todd Blackadder has made just 2 changes to the starting line-up for the clash against the Hurricanes with Wyatt Crockett reaching his 150th game.

Matt Todd will start at No 7 this week, after Richie McCaw was ruled out following a head knock in the game against the Blues.

That sees Luke Whitelock come onto the bench as loose forward cover.

Scrumhalf Andy Ellis steps back into the starting line-up with Mitchell Drummond moving to the reserves.

The game will mark an impressive milestone for prop Crockett, as he brings up his 150th game for the Crusaders.

Blackadder said the team will be keen to make this a game to remember for their good mate.

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Super RugbyIt was a weekend of drama and excitement in South Africa as the DHL Stormers moved to the Top of the local Super Rugby Conference and the Emirates Lions kept alive their dream of reaching the Top 6.

The Emirates Lions beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 34 / 29 in an 8-try humdinger on Saturday afternoon to record their 6th victory of the season, making 2015 their 2nd best yet but with 6 Rounds to go.

Last year, the Emirates Lions finished with 7 wins, 2 better than their 5 from 2007, but they are on track to better their best in the coming weeks.

The Toyota Cheetahs also deserve a lot of credit for never giving up as they returned to Bloemfontein with 2 bonus points.

The 2nd local match on Saturday delivered heaps of drama and the result was in the balance right until the end, but the DHL Stormers hung on for their 2nd victory over the Vodacom Bulls this season as they won by 15 / 13.

The visitors from Pretoria scored the only try of the match when Bjorn Basson went over early in the 2nd half, but the match-clinching moment came at the death when Duane Vermeulen charged down an attempted drop-goal by Handré Pollard to lead his side to their 7th win of the season.

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Richie McCaw, struggling to get up

Richie McCaw, struggling to get up

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw is “unlikely” to feature for the Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby show down with the Hurricanes.

The Crusaders flanker was concussed in his team’s 14-point win over the Blues in Round 11 and will undergo tests over the coming days to determine his availability for the game against the competition leaders.

But Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said no risks would be taken, and with the World Cup 4 months away, McCaw is likely to be given a week off.

“If he’s not right, there’s no way he will play, Richie,” Blackadder said.

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Ryan Crotty

Ryan Crotty

Crudsaders Head coach Todd Blackadder has made 4 changes to last week’s starting line-up, including a return for All Black centre Ryan Crotty.

In the forward pack, Codie Taylor and Ben Funnell have rotated so that Taylor starts at hooker this week, as have Owen Franks and Nepo Laulala, with Franks starting at tighthead.

Mitchell Drummond will start at scrumhalf with Andy Ellis moving to the bench.

Crotty has recovered from a head knock and will start at outside centre, with Kieron Fonotia ready to provide some impact from the bench.

Blackadder says the overall squad is largely unchanged from last week, in a showing of faith from the coaches that these players can do the job.

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Aaro Mauger

Aaro Mauger

The Crusaders, a few weeks after dishing out a performance that caused the Cell C Sharks to apologise to their fans, have now had to do the same.

It was Pat Lambie, and then Gary Gold, who publicly apologised to the Kings Park faithful for the Sharks after a drubbing received at the hands of the New Zealanders.

This time around, Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger has said that it hurt to see people walk out of their game against the Chiefs last weekend.

Fans streamed out of AMI Stadium before the final whistle in their 9 / 26 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs.

Mauger said that, coupled with some angry posts on social media, really affected the team.

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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made 5 changes to his starting 15 for Friday’s clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Brad Weber starts at scrumhalf and Sonny Bill Williams and Charlie Ngatai return from injury to take their place in the midfield.

Tim Nanai-Williams comes onto the right wing with Tom Marshall moving to fullback while Michael Fitzgerald, Augustine Pulu and Andrew Horrell all join the reserves.

The Chiefs won the corresponding fixture between these sides, 40 / 16 in Hamilton in Round 3. Despite that result, Rennie expects a tough battle against the 7-time champions.

“The Crusaders are a quality side,” he said.

“Our previous encounters with them have been of test match intensity and this is a must win game for both sides to remain in touch with the Hurricanes.”

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Todd Blackadder

Todd Blackadder

Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder has made 5 changes to his starting 15 for their clash with the Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday.

Wyatt Crockett and Nepo Laulala will be this week’s starting props, with Joe Moody and Owen Franks acting as front-row cover off the bench..

Luke Romano returns at lock as Jimmy Tupou moves to the bench while Richie McCaw and Matt Todd have again rotated so that McCaw starts.

The only change in the backs is at inside centre, where Dan Carter takes Ryan Crotty’s spot. Crotty is recovering from a head knock received in last weekend’s loss to the Highlanders.

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Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Kieran Read has changed his mind and declined the opportunity to play at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

All Black superstar Read initially had his mind set on joining the New Zealand Sevens team to play in the Brazil Olympic Games, but after lengthy talks with All Black coach Steve Hanson, he has opted to concentrate on the 15-man game.

Read’s decision not to chase an Olympic medal, would have also been a relief for Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

Super Rugby players who elect to play the shorter version of the game are expected to miss approximately 6 Rounds of the competition, meaning Blackadder would have been without his skillful skipper for a 3rd of the Super Rugby season if he had chosen to play Sevens.

“I was keen to go Rio but I won’t be,” Read said at the Crusaders training session on Wednesday.

“It would be a hell of an opportunity but I will probably focus on making the All Blacks team.”

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Ryan Crotty

Ryan Crotty

Ryan Crotty has been ruled out of the Crusaders’ clash with the Chiefs as a precautionary measure, after he suffered a head knock against the Highlanders last weekend.

It is not all bad news for the Crusaders though, as star flyhalf Dan Carter could well fill the vacant No 12 spot after appearing off the bench against the Highlanders.

Injuries have played their part in marring the All Black playmaker’s season thus far, but he should be fit enough to start on the weekend.

Crotty’s absence is also offset by the return of loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Luke Romano, who were rested for the Highlanders’ game.

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Colin Slade

Colin Slade

All Black and Crusaders back Colin Slade has signed with the Section Paloise Rugby Club (Pau), departing following the World Cup.

Slade said he had not found it easy to come to the decision to play overseas but he was now excited about the opportunity.

“This is certainly not a decision taken lightly. I have given it a lot of thought and considered all my options, but I am now satisfied that moving to Pau after this year is the right decision for me at this point in my life,” Slade said.

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Ben Franks

Ben Franks

Dan Carter has returned to the Crusaders team via the bench, after coach Todd Blackadder named an unchanged backline for their match against the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday.

There are 3 changes in the forwards, with Joe Moody and Owen Franks the starting props this week, and Alex Hodgman and Nepo Laulala providing cover from the bench.

Jimmy Tupou starts at lock alongside Sam Whitelock, and Scott Barrett is in the reserves.

This will be Franks’ 100th game for the Crusaders, which coach Todd Blackadder says is a remarkable achievement that will be celebrated by the whole team.

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HighlandersHighlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph has kept faith with the team that beat the Stormers by naming an unchanged line up for Saturday’s Super Rugby derby against the Crusaders.

The Crusaders are fresh off a demolition job on the Sharks in Durban while the Highlanders return from a week off for the bye.

Traditionally a close encounter both sides will be keen to maintain their recent success heading into the halfway point of the competition.

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Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Crusaders captain Kieran Read has said, despite his teams emphatic victory over the Sharks in Durban, some of his players need lessons in fair play.

The Crusaders were shown 3 Yellow Cards, that all overlapped, in the 1st half, but little damage was done as the Sharks squandered any advantage by receiving a Red Card of their own.

Although there was no damage done to the scoreboard while the Crusaders were down to 12 men, in fact, points were picked up, Read is still not happy with the those individual’s actions.

It was not ideal,” Read said after the match.

“We have to learn a few lessons, those individuals especially,”

However, the captain was happy to see that those loss of personnel allowed the team to galvanize rather than fall apart.

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Cell C SharksCrusaders3 Consecutive wins and Top spot on the Vodacom Super Rugby South African Conference table should have left Cell C Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold beaming from ear to ear on Saturday night, but he wasn’t.

While he has been justifiably well satisfied with the character shown by his team in scoring an away win under huge pressure against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, in edging out the Chiefs when at a disadvantage in numbers because of red cards, and in coming from behind against the Western Force, Gold argues that his team is making life more difficult for itself than it needs to be.

The Sharks won 15 / 9 against the Western Force at Growthpoint Kings Park this past weekend, but it was a close run thing and his team had to make use of several get out of jail cards in order to prevail in a game they should have been expected to win comfortably.

“We are making a habit of winning close games and some might see that as a positive in that it means we are creating a winning habit after being in a bit of a hole a few weeks ago, but the bottom line for me is that it should not have been so close and I am not happy about that,” said Gold.

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