Those of us living in Christchurch are aware of the creeping effects of earthquake fatigue. 2011 was a year lived on adrenalin; 2012 was a year when the realities of the long-term effects took hold. No longer could we bluff it that things were going to be be easily-or quickly- or smoothly fixed. By 2013 we became truly aware of the mundane realities of living in a city that is not really working in a number of ways: bad roading, transport blockages, on-going EQC head-aches, apparent CERA inaction and local council dramas and failures, an inner-city re-build that is really a dystopian no-build and, perhaps most importantly, the awareness that everyone is worn out, emotionally and physically.
In such a context mental staleness is a reality that has to be worked hard at to overcome.
This is a Crusaders team that has seen little change in on-field personnel for a number of years now. Further more, it is made up of players who went through the quakes and now live in the post-quake realities. More than that they have played together for a number of years without winning a championship. Stale teams often look first to change the coach. Yet as was done at the Chiefs and now at the Blues, the changes in coaching need also to be accompanied by a change in on-field personnel. Of course the mix has to be right, as is demonstrated by the on-going problems of the Highlanders. Change in itself is not the answer.
But is the backline in particular that looked tired tonight for the Crusaders - as indeed it did last year. Again it was too lateral without the necessary speed to make it work, too lateral without a straightening punch-runner, too disorganised on both attack and defence. Blackadder has made coaching changes but now must make selection changes. But it is really too late, for what was-and is-needed is a refreshment of personnel from outside Christchurch, outside both the Crusaders and Canterbury squads. In fact for the good of the players themselves they need to be able to relocate and learn new systems with different players- and live in a different, un-broken city.
The secret of coaching is often who you don't choose to play. This is going to be the test of Blackadder as a coach if the Crusaders under him are to win a championship.