Carter toys with Beale

2008-05-30 07:46

Christchurch - Crusaders five-eighth Dan Carter has begun the mind games in an attempt to rattle Kurtley Beale before the Super 14 final tomorrow, highlighting the enormity of the occasion as a potential cause of his downfall.

While rejecting suggestions the Waratahs No.10 was a weak link, Carter on Thursday urged local Cantabrians to fill AMI Stadium to capacity and create a hostile environment for the Waratahs.

As the Crusaders' goal kicker, Carter knows what impact a cheering or jeering crowd can have, and that Beale had a poor night with the boot in last week's semi-final win over the Sharks.

Before a home crowd in Sydney, Beale's accuracy turned sour, kicking only two from seven. "It is a big occasion for him. Hopefully we will sell out [AMI Stadium]," Carter said. "Kicking can be pretty important. It is not about scoring four tries with a bonus point. So you have to take every opportunity as it comes, and often that means kicking penalty goals."

However, Carter is especially wary of Beale's danger in general play - whether he runs or passes.

Better side "He has made real strides this season from last year," Carter said. "With the ball in hand, he is always going to be a threat. You can't drift off him too quickly because he has great footwork. He is not the biggest guy, so that's not on his side, but if he gets good front-football, he'll be dangerous."

The Crusaders, who will be playing in their ninth Super rugby final, are wary of the Waratahs across the board and rate them as a far better side than the one that lost to them at Christchurch in round six, 34-7.

Carter and coach Robbie Deans said the Waratahs were the in-form team of the competition, despite their own strong semi-final win against the Hurricanes last weekend.

"They are the team with the most momentum going into the play-offs, they were playing some good footy and had some good wins," Carter said. "They would have learned a lot from that game against us here a couple of months ago. They will be a different side and a lot tougher challenge than they were that night.

"They've shown they can use real width and score some great tries. They have some real game breakers, [Lachie] Turner and [Lote] Tuqiri, there's a lot of skill and pace out wide. It is something we have to watch out for."

Deans, for whom the final will be his last at the Crusaders before starting as the new Wallabies coach on Monday, agreed with Carter.

Breakfast launch

"We've got huge respect for their ability. We've got a great respect for the fact that they are peaking at the right time," Deans said. "They've always been a very physical, confrontational team and they're adding some fluidity to that, they're adding some confidence in their attack. The chemistry's pretty good."

Deans was on Thursday reminded of how he indirectly forecast a possible Crusaders-Waratahs final in February when he spoke at a breakfast launch Rotomahana Challenge trial game and told the audience that he hoped the match would be the first of three the two sides would play this season.

"I made the comment at the time that I hoped we met three times. I was wishing them well for the year. They've obviously made that good," Deans said.

"But the main reason I was saying that was because I hoped that we'd be there .. there's no doubt the best two sides are in the final. It's going to be a good contest."

The Crusaders on Thursday named Ti'i Paulo as the starting hooker to replace Corey Flynn, who was ruled out after breaking his hand in last Saturday's semi-final. Paulo's promotion to the starting side has allowed for hooker Steve Fualau to be picked on the bench.

Aside from Deans, backrower Reuben Thorne is moving to Japan and Carter has been linked with a move to French club Toulon. Asked if his imminent change had hit home, Deans replied: "Yes and no - I haven't packed anything."

And as he looked across the Crusaders training ground at Rugby Park to reflect on his days as a Cantabrian player and coach, he said: "Mate, I've been doing that for 12 years and pinching myself and thinking how lucky I am," he said. "By crikey, it's been fantastic. And it's not done yet."

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