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Crusaders

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Willi Heinz

Willi Heinz

The Crusaders appear set to be without Willi Heinz for the Super Rugby season after the scrumhalf fractured his leg in a trial against the Highlanders on Saturday.

Last year’s beaten finallists fell 29-26 in Timaru, however the scoreboard will be of little concern to Todd Blackadder’s troops, whose depth will to be tested ahead of their season-opening clash against the Rebels on 14 February.

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Sean Maitland

Sean Maitland

Scotland international Sean Maitland will join London Irish next season.

Maitland, who signed for the Warriors in October 2012, has made 38 appearances for the club and has scored 11 tries during his spell in Glasgow.

The 26-year-old winger has 15 caps and 2 tries for Scotland.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Sean has played a big role at the club over the last 3 years and we wish him all the best when he leaves at the end of the season.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and I’m sure he’ll want to leave the club on a high in the summer.”

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CrusadersNew Crusaders captain Matt Todd will lead a very inexperienced team south to Timaru to take on the Highlanders in the first pre-season outing on Saturday.

The team to play in this port city in the southern Canterbury region of New Zealand is made up of current squad members, wider training group members and some players who have been involved in the pre-season as part of the Crusaders apprenticeship system.

The game will be played in 4 quarters with rolling substitutions.

None of the Crusaders’ frontline All Blacks – Dan Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Richie McCaw, Luke Romano, Colin Slade or Kieran Read – will feature in the match.

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Matt Todd

Matt Todd

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has named Matt Todd as the captain for the opening Rounds of the Super Rugby competition.

Todd has been preferred over more illustrious teammates, in the absence of All Blacks Kieran Read and Whitelock, for the opening 3 fixtures – against the Rebels, Highlanders and Chiefs.

Regular skipper Read is taking a mini-sabbatical and while Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are also captaincy candidates, they looks set to miss the opening week as well.

In the national pecking order Todd sits 3rd behind McCaw and Sam Cane, but this endorsement recognises the esteem in which he is held, particularly by Crusaders’ teammates and management.

“Matt Todd is going to captain the team in Kieran Read’s absence,” Blackadder said.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Daniel Carter, world rugby’s leading points scorer and one of the greatest players to ever don the All Blacks jersey, is to leave New Zealand rugby at the end of the 2015 season.

The All Blacks and Crusaders flyhalf has announced he has signed a three-year deal with French Top 14 club Racing Metro. It will be Carter’s second stint in France after he played five games for Perpignan in 2008-09 during his sabbatical from New Zealand rugby.

32-year-old Carter said it was exciting to confirm his future post 2015.

“It’s going to be an awesome adventure for me and my family. Having visited France many times, including my time with Perpignan, I know what the French culture and their rugby culture is like and it’s something I really love.

“Having said that, it’s the immediate future that is exciting me at the moment. 2015 is going to be a big year and I’m looking forward to getting into it, firstly with the Crusaders and then hopefully with the All Blacks.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

French club Racing Metro are reportedly winning the race to sign All Blacks star Dan Carter in a deal that is tipped to make him the highest paid player in the game with a £1 million contract.

European media is awash with speculation around Carter as the veteran No 10’s future beyond next year’s World Cup continues to grab headlines.

All the various sources were tipping glamour Paris outfit Racing Metro to lure Carter back to the French competition after his painful previous experience of an injury-plagued sabbatical in 2009 with Perpignan.

The Times suggested Carter ‘is close to becoming rugby’s first £1 million man’ with Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti prepared to ‘break the bank’ for a move that would finally end Carter’s All Blacks career.

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Natalie Thain

Natalie Thain

Natalie Thain, a New Zealand business woman and former Zimbabwean swimmer, has taken over as the new board director at the Crusaders.

Crusaders Chairman Murray Ellis has stepped down from the Crusaders Board and is retiring after fifteen years on the board and seven as Chairman.

He said he continued to be passionate about the Crusaders and it was not easy stepping aside from something that had been such a big part of his life for many years.

“It has been an honour to serve on this board and as the Crusaders Chair. We have faced significant change in the time that I have been involved, and I am proud of the contribution I have been able to make in helping to steer the Crusaders through those challenges.

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Matt Todd

Matt Todd

Matt Todd was the big winner for the Crusaders and Caterbury at their annual awards evening, the flank coming away two prizes including the big one.

Canterbury Rugby and Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach expressed his congratulations to all of the awards recipients and said the evening had been a great celebration of success.

“This is the chance for our players, coaches, staff, sponsors and volunteers, to come together and enjoy an evening of celebration and reflection on the year.

“As is usually the case in sport, there were highs and lows throughout the year, but overall we have finished this year in good heart and with much to be proud of.

“There are a huge number of people who contribute to the success of rugby in this region, and while we couldn’t possibly thank them all individually, this awards evening is a way of us saying a collective thanks to all of those involved as well as acknowledging some outstanding individual achievements.”

The awards evening also marked a significant milestone for Todd Blackadder – 100 games as Crusaders head coach.

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CrusadersThe Pacific Islands may yet get a taste of Super Rugby, with the Crusaders considering shifting their home match against the Hurricanes to Fiji next year.

The Fiji Village website reported that planning was underway for the seven-time Super Rugby champions to play the Hurricanes in Suva after a sponsor came forward to underwrite the move.

A Crusaders spokesman could not confirm the switch Thursday, saying there were a number of options under consideration with their usual second-choice home venues of Nelson and Timaru also in the mix.

“It’s too soon to comment on what may go ahead,” she said.

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Aaro Mauger

Aaro Mauger

Crusaders Assistant Coach, Aaron Mauger, has accepted the Head Coach role with his old Leicester Tigers club from the 2015 / 2016 season.

Mauger, who will complete his third Super Rugby season as Assistant Coach with the Crusaders in 2015, played 53 games for the Leicester Tigers between 2007 and 2010 and captained the side for much of the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

He says it is a dream opportunity to return to a club that he is so fond of, in a head coach capacity.

“I have awesome memories of my time at Leicester as a player and it is a place I will very happily return to.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to do that as the head coach for the club and the timing is right for me to grab that opportunity.

“My aim is to help create the framework for Leicester to once again be amongst the top clubs in European and world rugby.

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Super RugbyIn preparation for Super Rugby in 2015, all 5 New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have named their squads for the tournament.

In the meantime, South African franchises will ponder about their squads and in December we at Rugby-Talk.com will speculate what the South African franchises will look like, as final squads will only be known in January 2015.

The same happens every year, New Zealand and Australia get their ducks in a row before the December break, whereas the South Africans seem to focus on December holidays, going to the beach, having Christmas and generally geting fat and lazy.

When can we ever expect the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Super Rugby franchises to ever catch up to the more professional attitudes displayed primarily by New Zealand… but also closely followed by their Antipodion counterparts, Australia?

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Newlands Rugby Stadium

All Blacks no go area – the picturesque Newlands Rugby Stadium.

Liam Napier explains the mystery of why South African rugby bosses are keeping the All Blacks away from the nation’s second-biggest city.

It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations. In 2008, 25,000 readers of South Africa’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph readers voted it the world’s best city.

But while the All Blacks travel to South Africa at least once every year, 2008 was the last time Cape Town hosted the All Blacks.

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Craig Joubert

Craig Joubert

New Zealand rugby is claiming its second referee apology in a week, with Craig Joubert said to have admitted he was wrong with a ruling that probably cost the Crusaders the Super Rugby crown.

The Waratahs won a tense final three weeks ago in Sydney 33-32, with the winning points coming from a penalty when flank Richie McCaw was penalised for entering a ruck from the side with a minute remaining in the match.

Had the kick missed, the Crusaders would have had possession and would have been unlikely to yield their 32-29 lead with time almost up.

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn: Still going strong at 39

Leicester Tigers have confirmed the arrival of World Cup-winning former All Black second row Brad Thorn.

39-year-old New Zealander was referred to by Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill as “one of the great all-time rugby players the world has ever seen.” He is expected at the club at the end of September.

Thorn became the first player to win World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup titles and arrives from the Highlanders having previously represented the Crusaders and Leinster.

“He is a very driven individual,” Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury.

“He wants to play in the Premiership and he wants to win the Premiership.”

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Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo will remain at the Crusaders for two more years, after reports in New Zealand said the giant Fijian winger “never had any intention of going anywhere else”.

“We have loved having Nemani in the Crusaders this season, as have our fans, so it gives me great pleasure to confirm that he will be returning to the team next year and in 2016,” Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said.

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Pictures of Crusaders rugby players on a hunting trip in South Africa are being used by an environmental organisation in its fight against what it calls canned, or joy ride, hunting.

George Whitelock, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sam Whitelock, Tom Taylor and Ben Funnell

George Whitelock, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sam Whitelock, Tom Taylor and Ben Funnell with guides on a hunt in South Africa.

It is reported that the players shown in the four pictures posted by the Landmark Foundation on its Facebook page were Tom Taylor, George and Sam Whitelock, Ben Funnell and Tyler Bleyendaal. In each picture, one or more of the players was posing beside a dead animal. The animals were a zebra, a blesbok, a gemsbok and an eland.

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Todd Blackadder

ONE MORE YEAR: Todd Blackadder talks to the media during this season’s Super Rugby campaign.

Crusaders boss Hamish Riach has endorsed Todd Blackadder and his coaching team for at least another season.

Although Crusaders head coach Blackadder and his assistants Dave Hewett, Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger have signed with the franchise until the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season, the honouring of such agreements can be subject to confidential conditions related to a team’s performance or whether they make the playoffs.

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

Retired South African referee Jonathan Kaplan says the Crusaders can feel hard done by after a late penalty cost them the Super Rugby title.

The Waratahs beat the Crusaders 33-32 in the Super Rugby final in Sydney last Saturday courtesy of a late penalty by flyhalf Bernard Foley.

The Crusaders looked headed for their eighth Super Rugby crown when flyhalf Colin Slade put them in front with a penalty in the 76th minute.

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Nemani Nadolo

RACIALLY ABUSED: Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo has tweeted about being racially abused.

The actions of a “stupid” lone drunkard who racially abused Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo was an anomaly that should not tarnish his great season, says coach Todd Blackadder.

“After all I’ve done to contribute to this lovely city of Christchurch to be called a UN FIT CHUBBY [N****] is disappointing [sic],” the Fijian-born Nadolo tweeted at 2.48am today.

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Waratahs

Waratahs celebrating their maiden Super Rugby victory.

The Waratahs won a drama-laden Super Rugby grand final 33-32 in Sydney with Bernard Foley breaking the Crusaders hearts by kicking a 45m penalty in the final seconds.

This frantic contest had multiple dramas, starting with the Crusaders trailing 14-0 in as many minutes, losing their talismanic general Dan Carter with an ankle injury in the first half and then having to mount a spirited comeback in front of a record 62,000-strong crowd.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

He’s loath to talk about dynasties and sustained dominance, but NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is already plotting a path to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

With a season remaining on his three-year contract, Cheika laughed off speculation he could be heading off to coach the Argentine national team after guiding the Waratahs to their Holy Grail.

“What, for a holiday? No, I’m here. We’re well into our planning for next season,” Cheika said after the Waratahs’ last-gasp 33-32 win over the Crusaders in Saturday night’s final.

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Richie McCaw

PRETTY ANNOYED: Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw was hurting after he gave away the match-winning penalty to the Waratahs.

Two of the Crusaders’ favourite sons were ironically also their own worst enemies during an epic Super Rugby final last night, as Richie McCaw and Andrew Mehrtens both made significant contributions to the Waratahs’ historic triumph.

The All Blacks captain was a focal point of the Waratahs’ match-winning penalty in the final minute at ANZ Stadium while Mehrtens – who famously confirmed the Crusaders third title in Canberra in 2000 with a coolly taken three-pointer – played a more peripheral role in the Waratahs dramatic 33-32 victory.

Ultimately it was Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley who took centre stage by directing his seventh successful penalty attempt just clear of the crossbar with less than 30 seconds to play in a contest that completed the Waratahs resurrection as the dominant force in Australian rugby.

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Richie McCaw & Sam Whitelock

Richie McCaw cuts a forlorn figure after the match.

Todd Blackadder’s pre-match prediction that the Super Rugby final would be determined by a few crucial moments came back to haunt him as a “50-50″ call condemned the one-time competition kings to another bridesmaid experience.

Bernard Foley’s last minute penalty secured the Waratahs their maiden title on Saturday in Sydney and extended the Crusaders wait for their eighth to at least an eighth year.

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Bernard Foley

The moment: Bernard Foley puts boot to ball in the hope of winning the title.

When the Waratahs were awarded a penalty inside the last minute of Saturday’s night Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium, Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley didn’t flinch.

He immediately stepped up to take the kick – even though from 43-metre the attempt might be slightly out of his range.

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Super RugbyIt is the Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! The Waratahs host the Crusaders.

This weekend decides the honors for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

What a game we have to look forward to!

The Waratahs have been good and consistent all season whereas the resurgent Crusaders, who absolutely pummelled the Cell C Sharks last weekend have hit a rich vein of form.

A winner is difficult to predict, there are game breakers on either side, no matter how you look at it. In the final analysis the 2 best Super Rugby sides of 2014 are in the Final and both deserve to contest for ultimate glory in 2014.

13 Other Challengers already now lay by the wayside, done and dusted, only 1 more game to come…. this one!

Who do you think will take the crown and Why?

Let the game continue…. let the battle commence!

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Todd Blackadder

FROM YOUNG BEGINNINGS: Todd Blackadder led the Crusaders to their first Super Rugby title win – a final victory over the Blues at Eden Park in the then Super 12.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has a chance to go where no man has gone before him in the Super Rugby annals.

The 42-year-old former All Blacks skipper could become the first person to captain and coach title-winning teams.

Blackadder guided the Crusaders to the first three of their record seven championship victories, the first coming in 1998 when they beat the Blues, 20-13 at Eden Park, breaking the Auckland-based franchise’s hold on the title.

Blackadder endeared himself to the entire top of the South Island region by making a post-game speech acknowledging the team represented Nelson Bays, Marlborough, Buller, West Coast, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury.

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Kieran Read

Crusaders skipper Kieran Read was stood up by Michael Hooper

NSW Waratahs have stoked the fire ahead of the Super Rugby final after skipper Michael Hooper failed to turn up for a photo promoting Saturday night’s blockbuster.

Hooper was supposed to be photographed alongside Crusaders captain Kieran Read and the Super Rugby trophy on Friday.

But the All Blacks No.8 and reigning IRB Player of the Year got sick of waiting and walked off ANZ Stadium with Hooper still a no-show 20 minutes after the scheduled time.

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WaratahsCrusadersAhead of the 2014 Super Rugby Final, we have decided to pick out the key head-to-heads set to take place at ANZ Stadium this Saturday.

Five players wore the red and black the last time the Crusaders won the Super Rugby title in 2008, that 20-12 win coming versus the ‘Tahs, who also had five in action. So for Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson the game may well have some feeling.

Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Wyatt Crockett were those on the triumphant XV in Christchurch, but will they be again?

Here we look at six battles set to take place in Sydney and judge who might have the edge in the critical areas that could decide the fixture.

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The inspiring scene of the movie Invictus came to life on the Waratah’s training pitch.

It was like a scene out of the movie Invictus.

After the Waratah’s final training session before Saturday’s Super Rugby final, Adam Ashley-Cooper dropped to a knee with the entire squad huddled around him, arm in arm, and recited a poem he wrote himself.

The rhyming stanza lasted for 20 minutes and was met with rapturous applause at its conclusion.

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TEMPER, TEMPER: Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is known to get hot under the collar on occasion.

The Waratahs trained in the open in Sydney today and the pressure on coach Michael Cheika was obvious as he oversaw the team’s final significant practice session before Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders.

Already on the equivalent of a good behaviour bond after incurring a suspended six-month ban by SANZAR for abusing a cameraman during the Waratahs’ loss to the Sharks in Durban, the notoriously volatile head coach was again irritated when a photographer took images of lineout drills.

“What if I come to your work and start f…king photographing you?” Cheika shouted at the photographer situated behind the goal posts at the Kippax ground near Allianz Stadium.

That message got through but soon afterwards the 47-year-old noticed another photographer at the other end of the field, prompting Cheika – in more conciliatory tones – to ask the Waratahs’ media manager to warn him to stop shooting.

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Phil Waugh believes that the Waratah pack can dominate the Crusaders

Former Waratahs captain Phil Waugh says the Waratahs pack can “dominate” the Crusaders in the crucial forward battle, if their mental game is spot on.

Waugh, the state’s most-capped player, rejected speculation from sections of the New Zealand media that the seven-time Super Rugby champions would have the Waratahs on toast at set-pieces in Saturday’s final at ANZ Stadium.

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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has predictably made no changes for Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney.

Given the way his team dismantled the Sharks 38-6 in Christchurch last weekend there was always an expectation Blackadder would roll out the same side for the showdown at the Olympic Park’s ANZ Stadium.

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RELAXED: Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty prepares to board the plane to Sydney for the Super Rugby final against the Waratahs.

He barely blinked during the white-knuckled flight over the Southern Alps and Ryan Crotty isn’t worried about what lies ahead in Sydney, either.

Strong westerly winds caused lively turbulence for the Crusaders’ Air New Zealand jet as it flew over the South Island’s spine yesterday, resulting in the pilot reducing altitude and slightly deviating the flight path to give his passengers a smoother voyage.

Given some of the hairy situations they have endured on the field the Crusaders have become accustomed to wild rides, so like his team-mates Crotty could only fasten his seat belt and wait for the bumpy ride to end.

It’s that sort of resolve coach Todd Blackadder will want from his men during Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs.

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