The Crusaders glorious 13-year run of Super Rugby finals appearances look likely to end after their loss to the NSW Waratahs, but the seven-time champions are refusing to run up the white flag just yet.
Their 32-22 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday has left the Crusaders in ninth spot and their campaign on the edge of oblivion.
With three rounds remaining, the proud New Zealand franchise are seven points behind the sixth-placed Brumbies and with only a slim mathematical chance of making the finals.
The draw does them no favours, with just a six-day turnaround to a game in Nelson against runaway competition leaders, the Hurricanes.
Even if they beat the Hurricanes, who have lost just once this season, they are likely to need a number of other results to go their way over the last three rounds.
Their penultimate round game is away to the struggling Blues and they finish off in Canberra in a potential cut-throat clash against a Brumbies side that will probably need to win to secure their finals position.
“Looking at the other results isn’t going to help us,” Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said.
“Where this leaves us in the competition who knows? But that’s not really our priority, (which) at the moment is to recover and get ready for a game in Nelson next Friday.”
Making the finals looms as one of the biggest challenges of Blackadder’s illustrious playing and coaching career with the Crusaders, but he expects the current team to keep battling despite conceding they are under pressure.
“One thing that I do know is that there’s a lot of belief still in this team, there’s a lot of good men, a lot of good character,” Blackadder said
“By no means have we ever put up a white flag, that’s just not in our nature.”
Crusaders flanker Matt Todd wasn’t giving up on extending their impressive finals streak, but said there was no point in looking at the ladder and they had to adopt a week-to-week approach.
“Whenever you play with the Crusaders it comes with the expectation of being a successful team, we’re certainly striving to keep that (finals) record going,” Todd said.
“It’s getting tight, so we’ve just got to worry about next week, performing there and we’ll let the calculations take care of themselves if we do our job.”
The Crusaders could be without some key personnel for their must-win domestic derby against the Hurricanes.
Fullback Israel Dagg will definitely miss the remainder of their campaign after aggravating his previous calf injury, captain Kieren Reid is in doubt with a head knock and five-eighth Colin Slade has a quadriceps issue.