While the Crusaders have some of the best young talent in New Zealand coming through their ranks, they’ve also been able to call on a number of experienced hands throughout 2021 to share their wisdom.

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Braydon Ennor’s ACL injury suffered during last year’s North v South match has kept him out of action for the entirety of the Aotearoa season, with the 23-year-old playing his first game of club rugby since the injury, but the Crusaders were able to bring in former All Blacks utility back Rene Ranger in the early stages of the season as cover.

Ranger didn’t get to play any minutes but was still able to offer plenty off the field during his stint with the side before heading to Japan.

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Now, a player has made the move in the opposite direction with former Crusaders star Tim Bateman joining the team after spending the early stages of the year representing Toshiba Brave Lupus in the Top League.

That’s a byproduct of All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue suffering an ACL rupture of his own, which will see him sidelined for the remainder of the year.

 

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Coach Scott Robertson had plenty of praise for Bateman, who’s returned to the environment after also spending some time with the squad last season.

“He’s pretty endearing to our group,” Robertson said of the 33-year-old. “He comes in and understands us, how it rolls. He adds where he needs to. [He’s an] articulate man and he trains bloody well and runs guys that aren’t in that 23 incredibly well.”

With Bateman’s many years of experience, both on and off the pitch, Robertson said it’s been a bit like bringing in an additional coach.

“He is very much like an extra assistant coach,” Robertson said. “[He] gives little tidbits, real smart things he can probably see from a different perception because he’s on the other side. Very valuable.”

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The ACL injuries to Ennor and Goodhue mean that Leicester Fainga’anuku has moved into the No 13 jersey while David Havili has taken over the responsibilities of second five. Effectively, the Crusaders are running with five outside backs on the park, as well as halves Mitch Drummond and Richie Mo’unga, for this weekend’s clash with the Blues.

While Bateman is exemplary off the park, he’s still in with a shot at featuring in a matchday day 23, with Robertson suggesting the former Hurricane is “fit and able”.

Whether Robertson sticks with his Havili/Fainga’anuku combo come the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season, once Ennor is back up to match fitness and ready for the rigours of professional rugby, is anyone’s guess.

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