JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Crunch time for Tahs pack despite some chinks in Crusaders' armour

Date

Paul Cully

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Key players out for the Tahs

This weekend is looking like a tough week for the Australian Super Rugby teams.

PT0M0S 620 349

At the beginning of the month, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin witnessed the surprising spectacle of dual British and Irish Lions loose-head prop Gethin Jenkins being repeatedly bent in the scrum against Irishman Mike Ross in a Heineken Cup quarter-final between Jenkins's Cardiff and Leinster.

But the relevance of Jenkins's woes to the Waratahs, Wallabies and All Blacks was not in the form of the Irish tight-head with solid, rather than spectacular, set-piece abilities. Instead, it took the shape of a familiar, huge second-rower driving behind him: Brad Thorn, 37, in the blue of Leinster on a short-term deal, still going strong, still physically dominating at the highest level, still producing the sort of horsepower that makes happy men of his tight-head props.

When NSW pack down against the Crusaders on Sunday we will find out just how much New Zealand will miss him - and if Benn Robinson has the ability to exploit the absence of his 116 kilogram motor.

Engine room … the front row, from left, Sekope Kepu, Tatafa Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson.

Engine room … the front row, from left, Sekope Kepu, Tatafa Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson. Photo: Steve Christo

The amount of the power Thorn generates through the tight-head side can be measured by the frequency with which it is referred to by tight-five teammates. Ross's praise - "like having another tight-head behind you with the power and weight coming through from him" - sits alongside the many flattering words that have been sent Thorn's way in homage to his peerless ability to shove large frames around a paddock.

Unsurprisingly, there have been whispers that his departure might have taken a little sting out of Owen and Ben Franks's work at scrum time, although presumably made out of earshot of the weighty brothers. The accusations stemmed from a wobbly performance against the Chiefs' front row in round three, but something closer to normal service was restored last week against the Hurricanes after gradual improvements in previous weeks.

The Crusaders' first try, to Kieran Read, came after a dominant attacking scrum in the fourth minute. In the 18th minute, the Hurricanes' pack was driven off their ball and had to improvise just to retain possession. Perspective is required though - it is the most vulnerable part of the Hurricanes' game. Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu will provide a much sterner test.

It has not been easy for Robinson to get underneath Owen Franks as he has done with other tight-heads, the converted hooker John Smit in particular. The younger Franks has a low body position and a reputation for immense work in the gym and meticulous preparation.

Yet Thorn's departure from the scene presents an opportunity for Robinson to test Franks in a way that has not been possible in recent years, with the ageless hard man a constant presence for the Crusaders and All Blacks. Andrew Blades and Mike Cron would make for fascinating company during the 80 minutes. Each man will sleep easier if the pendulum has swung a little their way.

An examination is also on its way for Kepu. The big man endured a difficult World Cup on the loose-head side against squatter opponents, and there should be no surprise the Crusaders have chosen to start Ben Franks there instead of the taller Wyatt Crockett to search for technical difficulties in Kepu's game. It takes a particular type to want to anchor a scrum of 900kg packs and Kepu has previously shown his best work to be in open spaces.

The scrum has become of such vital importance to the Waratahs because so much of their game is based around the set-piece. The correct noises are being made about trying to develop a more complete game but the evidence remains to the contrary, including the mournful sight last week of backs joining a maul to attempt a pushover for the four-try bonus point against the worst side in the competition.

The NSW model is power, forward dominance and pressurising the opposition. It can be a potent mix against more pliable packs but if the Crusaders are in the mood to show Thorn's exit has not lessened their power, a long day at the office certainly beckons.

An inquisition into the state of Australian scrummaging this year is upon us. Robinson, so painfully missed by Australia at the World Cup, will walk into the Wallabies side at loose-head. His partner at tight-head for the June Tests should be pencilled in by Monday.

9 comments so far

  • I think you'll find the Waratahs played the Rebels last week not the Blues.

    Commenter
    harry
    Date and time
    April 27, 2012, 4:19AM
    • Look at what a difference having Sita Timani pack down on the right side made to the Tahs' scrum, even with Paddy Ryan at tight head. Remember that last scrum - Rebels or the week before, when Paddy and Sita drove straight through them?

      Commenter
      Karma Police
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 10:37AM
      • This is exactly why NSW and other teams are struggling right now. Everyone complicates a very simple game - you score tries, you win. They can write columns about match-ups and who is missing who and who is better in the scrum, but in the end if you don't have people who can penetrate the line, catch and pass and score tries you aren't going to win consistently. We have many people playing at the top levels in Australia that literally can't catch and pass. Until we start rating footballers on different criteria we will be stuck with people like Halangahu (worst player to EVER play that much Super rugby) and lose people like Kurtley Beale.

        Commenter
        Mike
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        April 27, 2012, 12:06PM
        • it might pay to remember that Sam Whitelock is a certainty for an AB second row slot in three weeks and it just may be that the Crusaders will take advantage of a Waratah's second rower - Dean Mumm - who doesn't always pull [or push] his weight for his State or his country [remember the defeat to Samoa among others] and who currently leads the S15 competition for most tackles missed and for most penalties given ... I think it's foolish to predict massacres on the rugby paddock but the Waratahs will struggle against true class this weekend ... as they have all year and, realistically, as they always do ...

          Commenter
          chracol
          Date and time
          April 27, 2012, 12:22PM
          • Totally agree. Thorn was unique but the Crusaders are the most professional province in S15. The canes (my mob) were sadly depleted right up until hours before game but I gave canes an 18 pt start and thought that was maybe low.......how right I was. They will not need to be at 60% to beat the tahtahs. They have poor standard of basic skills, a back line with no imagination/talent and a scrum that the Crusaders will demolish. Only problem for Crusaders will be to not drop standard to tahtahs level. I got 6 picks last week and this will be the easiest pick for this week. These next three weeks will see the tahtahs heading to the cellar

            Commenter
            heading off
            Location
            Guatavita, Colombia
            Date and time
            April 27, 2012, 1:42PM
          • I suspect you're right chracol. I also expect the 'Tahs to kick the ball to the Crusaders even though it's usually an insane tactic, as we've known for years.
            The 'Tahs ought to make a stand this weekend. After the Crusaders they play the Brumbies in Canberra, the Bulls in Sydney & the following week the Stormers in Cape Town !
            Ah well, 'Always look on the bright side of life, de dum.....'

            Commenter
            abercarn
            Date and time
            April 27, 2012, 2:50PM
          • @ heading off
            As 'Tah Tragic' and having picked the last two rounds correctly with the winning margin for the first game as well in both, I'm tipping the mighty Crusaders to 'dust it' with the Tahs. Head not heart ! But I still struggled with that decision.
            My question to you is if this is such a done deal for the Crusaders what would the margin be?
            And while we're at it what on earth is going on at the Blues?

            Commenter
            Machooka
            Location
            inner west sydney
            Date and time
            April 28, 2012, 9:10AM
        • waratahs can never seem to have all 15 firing on the field at the same time (as the crusdaer, stormers always seem to do). if the tahs scrum works, then the backline falters; if the backline is firing, forwards lack penetration/momentum. i get so frustrated watching them play. best game of s15 series so far was recent stormers v. crusaders - hard fought forward play, good skills by backs, smart kicking....i'd pay money to see that every week...oh wait, I do, it's called foxtel

          Commenter
          icanpress
          Location
          syd
          Date and time
          April 27, 2012, 2:56PM
          • The big problem for NSW is the one alluded to in the headline for this and pretty much every story every week. It always seems to be a 'make or break' game. Crunch time.

            Whilst much of this is journalistic hyperbole, good teams do not have weekly 'make or break' games. No-one was saying this about the Crusaders last week, or the week before, even though their record was average. No-one is saying it this week either.

            From memory, people were saying it about NSW after week two.

            Yet the Waratahs are closer to the top of their conference than the Crusaders are. If they lose, it is not the end of the world or their season.

            Whilst this is mostly because the Aussie teams aren't very good, I suspect the Waratahs would play better if they relaxed a bit. They've choked in a couple of finals, but now that they seem to treat every game as final, they choke in those too.

            Commenter
            sfdoddsy
            Date and time
            April 27, 2012, 11:19PM

            Make a comment

            You are logged in as [Logout]

            All information entered below may be published.

            Error: Please enter your screen name.

            Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

            Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

            Error: Please enter your comment.

            Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

            Post to

            You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

            Thank you

            Your comment has been submitted for approval.

            Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

            Related Coverage

            Super Rugby 2015

            Round 1
            Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
            CRU 10vs REB 20 Report Stats
            BRU 47vs RED 3 Stats
            Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
            LIO 8vs HUR 22 Report Stats
            BLU 18vs CHF 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
            SHA 29vs CHT 35 Report Stats
            BUL 17vs STO 29 Report Stats
            WAR 13vs FOR 25 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 2
            Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 19vs BRU 17 Report Stats
            REB 28vs WAR 38 Report Stats
            Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
            BUL 13vs HUR 17 Report Stats
            HIG 20vs CRU 26 Report Stats
            RED 18vs FOR 6 Report Stats
            Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
            STO 27vs BLU 16 Report Stats
            SHA 29vs LIO 12 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 3
            Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
            HIG 20vs RED 13 Report Stats
            FOR 13vs HUR 42 Stats
            Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
            CHT 25vs BLU 24 Report Stats
            CHF 40vs CRU 16 Stats
            REB 15vs BRU 20 Report Stats
            Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
            BUL 43vs SHA 35 Report Stats
            LIO 19vs STO 22 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 4
            Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 17vs HIG 20 Report Stats
            BRU 27vs FOR 15 Report Stats
            Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
            BLU 10vs LIO 13 Report Stats
            RED 5vs WAR 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CHT 20vs BUL 39 Report Stats
            STO 29vs SHA 13 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 5
            Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
            HUR 30vs BLU 23 Report Stats
            FOR 17vs REB 21 Report Stats
            Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CRU 34vs LIO 6 Report Stats
            HIG 26vs WAR 19 Report Stats
            RED 0vs BRU 29 Stats
            Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
            STO 19vs CHF 28 Report Stats
            CHT 10vs SHA 27 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 6
            Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
            HIG 13vs HUR 20 Report Stats
            REB 16vs LIO 20 Report Stats
            Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CRU 57vs CHT 14 Report Stats
            Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
            BUL 25vs FOR 24 Report Stats
            SHA 12vs CHF 11 Report Stats
            WAR 28vs BRU 13 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 7
            Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
            HUR 36vs REB 12 Report Stats
            RED 17vs LIO 18 Report Stats
            Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 37vs CHT 27 Report Stats
            HIG 39vs STO 21 Report Stats
            WAR 23vs BLU 11 Report Stats
            Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
            SHA 15vs FOR 9 Report Stats
            BUL 31vs CRU 19 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 8
            Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
            HUR 25vs STO 20 Report Stats
            REB 23vs RED 15 Report Stats
            Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 23vs BLU 16 Report Stats
            BRU 20vs CHT 3 Report Stats
            Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
            SHA 10vs CRU 52 Report Stats
            LIO 22vs BUL 18 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 9
            Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
            BLU 16vs BRU 14 Report Stats
            Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
            CRU 20vs HIG 25 Report Stats
            WAR 18vs STO 32 Report Stats
            FOR 15vs CHT 24 Report Stats
            Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
            LIO 23vs SHA 21 Report Stats
            BUL 43vs RED 22 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 10
            Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
            CRU 9vs CHF 26 Report Stats
            Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
            HUR 24vs WAR 29 Report Stats
            HIG 30vs BLU 24 Report Stats
            BRU 8vs REB 13 Report Stats
            FOR 6vs STO 13 Report Stats
            Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
            SHA 10vs BUL 17 Report Stats
            CHT 17vs RED 18 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 11
            Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
            CHF 35vs FOR 27 Report Stats
            BRU 31vs HIG 18 Report Stats
            Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
            CRU 29vs BLU 15 Report Stats
            WAR 18vs REB 16 Report Stats
            Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
            LIO 34vs CHT 29 Report Stats
            STO 15vs BUL 13 Report Stats
            RED 19vs HUR 35 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 12
            Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
            HIG 48vs SHA 15 Report Stats
            BRU 10vs WAR 13 Report Stats
            Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
            BLU 41vs FOR 24 Report Stats
            HUR 29vs CRU 23 Report Stats
            REB 16vs CHF 15 Report Stats
            Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
            CHT 25vs STO 17 Report Stats
            BUL 35vs LIO 33 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 13
            Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
            CRU 58vs RED 17 Report Stats
            REB 42vs BLU 22 Report Stats
            Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
            HUR 32vs SHA 24 Report Stats
            FOR 18vs WAR 11 Report Stats
            LIO 28vs HIG 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
            STO 25vs BRU 24 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 14
            Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
            BLU 23vs BUL 18 Report Stats
            RED 46vs REB 29 Stats
            Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
            HUR 22vs CHF 18 Report Stats
            WAR 33vs SHA 18 Report Stats
            Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
            LIO 20vs BRU 30 Stats
            CHT 24vs HIG 45 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 15
            Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
            CHF 34vs BUL 20 Report Stats
            RED 14vs SHA 21 Report Stats
            Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
            BLU 5vs HUR 29 Report Stats
            WAR 32vs CRU 22 Report Stats
            FOR 3vs HIG 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
            CHT 17vs LIO 40 Report Stats
            STO 31vs REB 15 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 16
            Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
            CRU 35vs HUR 18 Report Stats
            BRU 22vs BUL 16 Report Stats
            Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
            SHA 25vs REB 21 Report Stats
            HIG 36vs CHF 9 Report Stats
            FOR 10vs RED 32 Report Stats
            Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
            STO 42vs CHT 12 Report Stats
            LIO 27vs WAR 22 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 17
            Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
            HUR 56vs HIG 20 Report Stats
            FOR 20vs BRU 33 Report Stats
            Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
            REB 21vs BUL 20 Report Stats
            BLU 11vs CRU 34 Report Stats
            RED 3vs CHF 24 Report Stats
            CHT 33vs WAR 58 Report Stats
            Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
            STO 19vs LIO 19 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 18
            Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
            BLU 7vs HIG 44 Report Stats
            REB 11vs FOR 13 Report Stats
            Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
            BRU 24vs CRU 37 Report Stats
            CHF 13vs HUR 21 Report Stats
            WAR 31vs RED 5 Report Stats
            Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
            BUL 29vs CHT 42 Report Stats
            SHA 34vs STO 12 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Super Rugby Qualifying Finals
            Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
            HIG 24vs CHF 14 Report Stats
            Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
            STO 19vs BRU 39 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Super Rugby Semi Finals
            Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
            HUR 29vs BRU 9 Stats
            WAR 17vs HIG 35 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Super Rugby Grand Final
            Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
            HUR 14vs HIG 21 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Super Rugby 2015
            Overall standings
            Team P W L D +/- Pts
            Hurricanes 16 14 2 0 170 66
            Waratahs 16 11 5 0 96 52
            Stormers 16 10 5 1 50 45
            Highlanders 16 11 5 0 117 53
            Brumbies 16 9 7 0 108 47
            Lions 16 9 6 1 -22 42
            Chiefs 16 10 6 0 73 48
            Bulls 16 7 9 0 9 38
            View all
             

            Follow Us on Facebook

            Featured advertisers