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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Craig Dowd
Craig Dowd | Columnist Index
Craig Dowd played 60 Tests for New Zealand between 1993 and 2000, including in two World Cups, and he was part of the All Blacks team that won their first series in South Africa in 1996. He played for the Blues and Auckland in New Zealand domestic rugby, and for Wasps in England from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he coached North Harbour in the ITM Cup. More recently has been a SKY Television comments man.
Craig Dowd
Blackadder should not be under fire
Craig Dowd
April 1, 2014
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder stands alongside Richie McCaw, Crusaders v Reds, Super Rugby, AMI Park, Christchurch, New Zealand, July 20, 2013
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has been under increasing pressure © Getty Images
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If ever there was a game to highlight the way we turn pressure on coaches too often it was the Crusaders-Hurricanes game last weekend.

I have to say I thought it was one of the best I have seen this season. The Hurricanes always get up for a Crusaders game, and after what they have been through during the year, to go down there and play the way they did was most impressive.

We are a pretty bored bunch when we keep pointing the finger at the coach at what is wrong. We like to have the coach on the hot seat at the moment, but from what I saw at the weekend the teams were playing as well as they could.

The game of rugby is not about having two winners. One team loses and one team wins. But afterwards Mark Hammett is lauded and Todd Blackadder is put on the hot seat. It is just so fickle. I think we just need to lay off the coaches, and treat the game from what we see in front of us.

When you get a game within a margin of seven points, it usually indicates it was a game that could have gone either way. Close enough is good enough.

Last Friday night I didn't see anything wrong with the game of rugby as far as two teams wanting to play positive rugby and throw the ball around. The two Hurricanes wingers Julian Savea and Alapati Leiua were outstanding. I just thoroughly enjoyed the game.

I did see reports that Savea and halfback TJ Perenara were out of form but whoever wrote that must have written it before the game or was wearing blinkers. Savea was a colossus and he demonstrated the intent of the Hurricanes with his bump off of No.8 Kieran Read.

The Crusaders have probably welcomed the chance to get away to South Africa and away from New Zealand for a while. They are no strangers to winning games away and they've got the personnel.

They'll be licking their wounds and they can certainly upset some teams. At this stage of the competition, it is still wide open for anybody and a few good wins on the road could re-ignite their season and they could yet find their turning point. They have some players who could up their performances, and they will probably do that as we get closer to the international season.

Blues slowly hitting their stride

The Blues showed they had learned from their first round loss to the Highlanders. They knew what was coming this time. They started with a lot more intent and played a good style of rugby. They have got X-factor to burn everywhere. They are playing okay, but it is a case of just how much better can they get.

It is like waiting for an explosion of talent when they get it all together. One day, against a team that is totally unexpected, they will put 50 points on them because they have the talent there. That backline is absolutely golden.

They can fall back on some players who haven't come out yet but who are still seriously good players. There are positive signs but it hasn't all clicked. It is not the finished package yet.

They looked a little more solid up front with Tom McCartney coming in and I think he gave them the strength in the scrum that they needed and steadied everything up. He's someone the opposition will struggle to target because he's such a strong hooker.

And Jerome Kaino adds so much to the Blues team. I'm glad to see he's been named captain this week, and whether it is for one game or a handing over for the remainder of the season remains to be seen.

But what you do want to see is your experienced players taking on the leadership. No offence to Luke Braid because he has been a very good leader, but Kaino is your king and he is the guy you want sitting on the throne. He's got the respect of everyone in that team and they need someone to say, 'Follow me'. There wouldn't be one guy in that team who would think twice about doing that and that's what the Blues need.

Braid is a young captain, but I am sure he would even admit to himself he wouldn't mind Kaino leading the side because he has so much respect.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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