Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 22 News List

SUPER14: Deans coy on Crusaders' cracking start to season

AFP , SYDNEY

Coach Robbie Deans is keen to play down the significance of his Canterbury Crusaders' dazzling start to this year's Super 14, warning of a possible Western Stormers ambush in Cape Town today.

The six-time tournament winners are bidding for their first unbeaten tour of South Africa since 2002 after blitzing defending champions the Northern Bulls 54-19 in Pretoria last weekend as part of an 11-try opening to the season.

The Crusaders lead the southern hemisphere provincial rugby series together with fellow New Zealanders, the Auckland Blues, on maximum points and seemingly in ominous form.

But Deans, who will become Australia's first foreign coach after the Super 14, is not letting it all go to the Crusaders' heads and is respectful of the Stormers, missing suspended Springbok flanker Schalk Burger.

The Crusaders have made three changes with winger Caleb Ralph and props Wyatt Crockett and Campbell Johnstone coming into the starting XV.

The unbeaten Blues have made one switch with winger Rudi Wulf coming in for Anthony Tuitavake against the Cheetahs tomorrow.

Coach David Nucifora said continuity was the key factor in deciding to keep the rest of his starting line-up intact against the Cheetahs, who have suffered one-point losses in each of the first two rounds.

The third-placed Sharks are expecting the Bulls to hit back after their humiliation at the hands of the Crusaders when last year's finalists face each other tomorrow.

Western Force coach John Mitchell has warned Chris O'Young his place isn't assured after leaving him out of today's match with the Golden Lions in Johannesburg.

O'Young has flown from Scotland to South Africa to replace the disgraced Matt Henjak.

But O'Young's return will have to wait, after Mitchell stuck with the inexperienced James Stannard at scrumhalf, following an impressive showing in last weekend's win against the Cheetahs.

The Brumbies have dropped young scrumhalf Josh Holmes for tomorrow's all-Australian derby against the Reds in Canberra.

Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher delivered the selection shock after Holmes was guilty of an unacceptable number of missed tackles in the 22-20 win over the Otago Highlanders and has preferred Patrick Phibbs.

Will Genia was called up by the Reds after Wallaby scrumhalf Sam Cordingley failed to recover from a groin injury.

Young prop Sekope Kepu will make his starting debut for the NSW Waratahs against the Highlanders in Dunedin tomorrow after Wallabies prop Al Baxter was ruled out with concussion.

The Hurricanes have the edge over the Chiefs at home today with the Hurricanes winning seven of their 12 previous encounters.

■ MORTLOCK RE-SIGNS

AFP. SYDEY

Wallaby World Cup skipper Stirling Mortlock has turned down a substantial offer from a Japanese club and will play on in Australia until the end of the 2010 season.

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