How to stop the Crusaders!

Oom Rugby

Hi guys. So we at the end of a Super Rugby season that go on longer than when my wife tell the story about how she buy the wrong size of a dress at the shop and then take it back to swap it but she don’t have the slip so there is a argument and they must call the manager but they do not have her size and so she ask for money back but they will only give her credit in the shop.

But it is all worth it because here we are with our wonderful Lions in their third straight final!

All the talk is how the Lions must defend against the Crusaders, but I think a much bigger problem is how the Lions can attack. Because simply, the Crusaders has one of the most effective and choking defence systems we have seen.

If you think a good attack can simply break them down then just ask guys like Perenara, Barrett, Milner-Skudder, Savea, Lam and Laumape who smash their heads against the red wall for 80 minutes. No my friend, it is like a Test defence. Twinkling toes and sexy shoes mean nothing here. You must have another plan.

Look at the picture above. It is the 7th phase of Hurricanes throwing everything at the Crusaders but they still in perfect organisation with numbers up and the cover for Barrett’s cross-kick.

What do the Crusaders do? They use their numbers to be aggressive, and to shut you down in every area. They will be at the rucks, they will smash you inside, they will rush you in the midfield, they will catch you on the outside, and they will cover your kicks. It is like they have 18 men on the field.

How do they do it? Firstly because of the physicality and excellence of their players in one-on-one tackles. Then because of their organisation, incredibly high work-rate, and finally their anticipation of play.

So what can the Lions do?

For me it is a mix of firstly being pragmatic, but then also seeing the opportunities. No defence is perfect, every defence must make a compromise. More on that later…

Work The Body
As we see above on some few occasions when the Hurricanes played tighter they create some fractures in the Crusaders lines. The Lions must do the same and wait to only play off quick ball. They must not try to be fancy if the Crusaders defence is on the front foot because they will be shut down and get into big trouble.

Like a boxer, the Lions must work the body first. They must play with tempo and power in the closer channels, protect the ball, recycle cleanly, and test the defence on both sides of the ruck. If you can win the gainline then the Crusaders can not come out of the blocks so fast, and then you can go wider and play on your terms. And the Crusaders likes to spread their men out, so give them a blood nose inside, disrupt them and make them come narrower.

The Lions must maul, maul and maul again. I am not convince that the Crusaders maul defence is the best, and I am suspecting they will give away penalties here, as we see above in the first two minutes when Whitelock illegally sack the Canes after a lineout. I think it is part of their preference to be aggressive, and for me it is a red flag and something the Lions must absolutely exploit. Make them do something they do not want to do, and tie up their forwards.

Play Against The Grain
The Crusaders is sometimes vulnerable to plays that come back inside. They like to be aggressive, so what can happen is that the rushing wave lose connection with the inside defenders and a chink appear between the two groups.

But the interesting thing is that when the Crusaders is drifting and not rushing they also sometimes show a weakness. It is almost as if the aggressive mindset is still present and they do not always follow the rules of drifting properly. They do not keep a proper connection, and they also turn their shoulders too much inside when they tracking the attacking players.

The Lions has two centres in Vorster and Mapoe who is particularly good at exploiting this kind of mistakes. They both run great lines and in Elton they have a 10 who can put them away. But as I say, they must first get that front-foot ball to play off!

Punish Anticipation
One reason the Crusaders seems to have so many men on the field is because they anticipate play so well and get numbers to where the action will be. But that can sometimes mean they leave rucks too early as we see above, or they fold too many defenders too early before the ball actually come out.

Either way the Lions must always check at the last moment to see if the Crusaders is abandoning their posts, and then to get into the space fast with support. Ross Cronje in particular must be awake to breaks around the ruck, and also to change the direction of the attack if the Crusaders overload to one side too early.

Anyway guys, let us see what will happen. It will be about playing tight and smart, kicking well, playing for territory and putting pressure on the Crusaders lineout. And then maybe the small margins I mention above can come into play.

Enjoy the game!

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.

- Oom Rugby

Let's chat

  • Sharky

    I love your story about Tannie Rugby. My wife is the same :)

  • John Comyn

    Whiteley needs to be vocal with the ref. I watched the Canes game last week and two things stood out. They were all over Barrett like a cheap suit. As we all know he is not easy to shut down. The effect was that the Canes backline spent most of the time playing behind the gainline which I think is what Oom is eluding to. The reason it was effective is I think they were borderline off-sides most of the time. The other thing is I am convinced they are masters of deception when it comes to obstruction. Players are running in every direction except anywhere close to the ball carrier. I don’t know if it is legal or not but I do know it causes huge confusion for the defenders. Whiteley needs to be like a typical nitpicking Kiwi and call them out with the ref if he feels they are using illegal tactics.

  • Chris Mouton

    Great ideas, Oom. Let’s hope that the Lions came to the same conclusions! Some of these things are basics, though. The whole idea of earning the right to go wide. We learnt that at school. Play close to the ruck (and protect the ball!) until you suck in their defence and then send it wide. Good luck to the Lions, they need everything they can get!

    • SweetAz

      Lol Chris,—but thats DOMKRAG 101, watch out Hermie will be on your case in a minute.

  • Barry Smith

    Thanks interesting read!
    Front Foot ball may be a bit difficult though against a pack that has 8 All Blacks. Hopefully the Lions can get ascendancy!
    I also like the idea of turning their defenders by utilizing the spaces behind them, but tactical kick accuracy and chase would be paramount because their counter is deadly! Good luck Lions!

  • Dr. Andrew Keane

    Excellent article but am not sure if English is your first language but there are several glaring grammar mistakes. Am surprised that it wasn’t proofread before being published online. The first two sentences in the first paragraph say’s it all. We ARE at the end, that GOES on longer are just two huge basic English mistakes. (the bold words is the correct English). Through writing one can tell if someone has had a good education or not. There are more bad examples throughout. PLEASE proofread or is this how South Africans speak English?

    • Eric Theron

      Relax mate.the article did mention that ENGLISH IS NOT HIS FIRST LANGUAGE!!!you understood what he was trying to say did you not?!?!

    • Mudkip_joe

      Dr. Dude, you gotta be joking, the article is intentionally written in a broken English style for humorous effect. And BTW, your above reply contains numerous grammatical errors, maybe you need to sluk a chill pill my bra.

      “Excellent article but am not sure if English is your first language but there are several glaring grammar mistakes.” – INCORRECT

      “Excellent article but (I) am not sure (unsure) if English is your first language but (because) there are several glaring grammar mistakes.” – CORRECT

      “say’s it all” is also incorrect – should be “say it all”

      Also, don’t use “is” after a plural …you should have used “are” instead.

      Where are you even from … do they speak English there !!!???

      Maybe check yourself before going off on one in future.

      • Tim Landers

        This is the first time I have landed on this website as am still learning about the game and enjoying the journey so far. It is obvious there is a lot of anger here and it seems as though only South Africans and their views are welcome which is something I have not encountered with fans from New Zealand, Argentina and Ireland so far. Really sad to see. And for the record I apologise if my English has mistakes as am typing quickly and on my smartphone, in case anyone gets offended. Tim from Canada

        • SweetAz

          Really Tim??? You may be right about Ireland and Argentina but I can guarantee if you go on a NZ website like STUFF you will find kiwi’s are wayyyyyy more parochial than anyone else

          • Tim Landers

            This is based on my own experience, just as my experience of South Africans could well be based on the comment section here. Tomorrow will be my first rugby final so am looking forward to a great advert for the game. Take care and good luck tomorrow and I apologise for any offence i may have caused.

    • SweetAz

      Mate, put a sock in it, please understand that SA has 11 official languages and if you took the time to read through to the DISCLAIMER right at the end you will have seen English is OOM’s 3rd language. His proficiency in the first 2 is beyond dispute and this grammar nazi stuff is more suited to lifestyle blogs like the Kardashians than a rugby site. Every South African in the world reading this knows exactly what Oom meant and felt a sense of camaraderie with him

    • AK

      Read the disclaimer please

    • Peter

      It is all deliberate Dr Keane. Educated well no doubt, Oom clearly states that English is his third language after Rugby and Afrikaans. It is summed up best by this quote: “I Afrikaans, therefor I are”.

    • Rick

      So Dr Keane, in how many languages other than English have you published in? Wait let me guess, you can only speak one language…?

  • Barry Smith

    Andrew, “Oom” in Afrikaans means uncle and I guess you can manage the interpretation of Rugby. The concept of the colum is that an experienced Afrikaans rugby guy gives a view on various rugby scenarios, given in English, with a distinct Afrikaans flavour! This makes it a little more fun than most regularly columnists, but really the important bit is the man’s extensive understanding of the game. So maybe listen to what is said rather than the manner in which it has been delivered. Perhaps the Brits might consider a columnist reporting in Cockney or Geordie!

  • SweetAz

    Mooi so OOM, every man on the planet recognized his wife in your first paragraph and had an internal chuckle. You have it exactly right but I think you are being charitable,–I have watched the Crusaders for a while and they push the limits more than any other team, they have figured out that there is no way the ref can watch all of them all the time so they deliberately cheat and MOSTLY get away with it, especially in their red zone.
    I basically said exactly what you have just said in a comment earlier in the week and a few okes on here told me I was an idiot but you are exactly right, the times I have seen them vulnerable has been when people have been direct with lines close to the rucks.
    Unfortunately the Antipodean AR’s they have appointed for this match have not picked up on their deliberate cheating (or are turning a blind eye),-so the team will have to find ways to negate it.

  • humblepie

    The Saders deployed more players wide because that is where the Hurricanes are strong. I doubt it however if they will do the same against the Lions. If so, Kwagga will punish them around the edges. For me the key is to avoid pre-programmed rugby. Unpredictability is the Lions best asset. The Lions have game breakers at both forwards and backs. Key is to get a mismatch. Unfortunately earning the right to go wide is an ultimate form of predictability.
    Boy, this is going to be an exciting match!


      Agreed, brave on field captaincy will be required, to provide that spontaneous unpredictability.

  • humblepie

    I am actually a bit disappointed that the Hurricanes didnt change tactics when the Saders outnumbered them wide. It then became a boring, game. Some of our local teams have a reputation of low brain involvement. Interesting to see that they are not alone.

  • humblepie

    Some time ago I drove past a small village during a 4×4 excursion. A young boy ran up to me an wide eyed informed me “There is no road there”. The thought has crossed my mind that we should use this boy as assistant coach when teams keep on crashing into their opponents.

  • Jake Robertson

    Go the Saders! Can’t wait to see Elton get dumped and found out again.

  • Nick

    Can we nail the scrum? This has been a big factor for us all season. Prob is, crusaders are very powerful in this area.
    This will be important I think if lions aim to play as oom explains so well. Oom is spot on here with the boxing analogy.
    Chucking the ball around in the face of that defence will be an act of self harming.

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