The challenge of Sonny Bill
Mon, 23 Jul 2012 6:43p.m.
By Jim Kayes
While number eight Kieran Read's withdrawal from Friday's semi-final is a blow for the Crusaders, his absence so far has been covered superbly by Richie McCaw - but the bigger challenge for the seven-time champions is shutting down Sonny Bill Williams’ off-loads.
A year ago Ryan Crotty was pulling on a reserves jersey to watch Williams start at second-five for the Crusaders, now he's marking him.
“He's a crucial cog in that Chiefs’ machine, he's someone you've got to do your home work on,” says Crotty.
Crotty will be hoping for a bit of help on the drift defence from Dan Carter, though both concede 12cm and 17kgs to Williams.
“You just know he's a big ball carrier who likes to offload if he gets the opportunity, that just means if the guy inside you tackles him low you've got to wrap the ball up so he doesn't get that chance,” says Carter.
But it's not just Williams who will test the Crusaders defence - Kerr Barlow is another one.
“Absolutely, and you only have to look at the Chiefs’ nine and 12 to see the threat that they do pose," says Crusaders back coach Daryl Gibson. "It's something we've been looking closely at and I suppose all teams in the Super competition would say well, if you can stop that, that's the threat that you have to stop."
“We're a team and our backs wouldn't be able to operate, to do the flashy stuff without our forwards dominating up front, that's where it's going to be won,” says Williams.
And up front the Crusaders are again without number eight Read, though he says his broken rib will be okay if the Crusaders get to next week's final.
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