Deans in between two worlds

2008-05-30 10:21

Wellington - Coach Robbie Deans will be a man with a foot in two camps when he leads the Crusaders, for the last time, into Saturday's Super 14 rugby final against the Waratahs.

The match at Christchurch will be Deans' last in charge of the Crusaders before he leaves New Zealand to become Australia's national coach, having forged the most successful record of any coach in the history of Super rugby.

Since 2000, Deans has led the Crusaders to seven finals and four titles, and now seeks to end that career with his fifth and the team's seventh championship.

But Deans ends this phase of his coaching career suspended between two worlds.

He will attempt to conceive a Crusaders victory over the Waratahs and yet, at the same time, must watch the form of Waratahs players as he prepares to name his first Wallabies squad.

Deans has attempted throughout the 2008 season to clearly separate the New Zealand and Australian elements of his dual coaching roles. Questions about the Wallabies have largely been banned at Crusaders' press conferences.

Imminent departure

He is likely to find it more difficult on Saturday to be able to keep the two strands of his career untwined. Wallabies and Waratahs winger Lote Tuqiri has already argued that most if not all of the Waratahs team merit Australian selection this season and Deans can no longer argue disinterest in their form.

Deans said this week he had given no thought to his imminent departure for Australia but had concentrated solely on the Crusaders' build-up to their 10th final.

"I'm not interested in anything beyond Saturday right now," he said. "I've been in this game long enough now to know the realities of it. To that end, I'm very focused on Saturday and nothing beyond."

The Waratahs have also attempted to divorce Deans' Wallabies role from the immediate imperative of pursuing their first Super 14 title in their second finals appearance. They lost to the Crusaders in 2005 at Christchurch.

"I don't think anyone's thought two or three days past Saturday," said Waratahs captain Phil Waugh, echoing Deans. "At the moment he's coaching the Crusaders and we've come here to beat the Crusaders. He's the enemy I guess at the moment and we've come here to beat his team."

Termination of his contract

The final will also be the last match for a number of Crusaders veterans, including former captain Reuben Thorne who has been part of all of their previous championships.

The Waratahs, equally, are expecting to farewell coach Ewen McKenzie though his future, after the termination of his contract mid-season, is still undecided.

The Crusaders players have tried to play down the more emotional elements of Saturday's match.

"Nothing's really changed, we've gone through all the usual routines," said flyhalf Daniel Carter, who may be on the brink of a move to France. "We're here as a team and I'm sure those guys (leaving) won't be thinking about that at all until after the game. Hopefully we can send them off in the right way."

The Waratahs will enter Saturday's final as underdogs but are not downplaying their chances.

"We obviously completely respect the Crusaders' history and what they've done and the fact they've led from the front the whole season," McKenzie said.

"But they have lost a couple of games and they've had a couple of games where they've come from behind so that suggests if you can get it right on the night, you're a chance."

Deans was more prosaic.

"Finals are always great, the intensity, the uncertainty is what the sport's all about."

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