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'Much more assertive': Scott Robertson's praise of Crusaders youngster

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

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Fresh after his side’s resounding 61-3 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Fijian Drua on Friday, Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has heaped praise on one of his young stars.

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Named to start at first-five ahead of incumbent playmaker Richie Mo’unga, 22-year-old pivot Fergus Burke shone for the serial title-winners, playing a vital role in his side’s dismantling of the competition newbies in Christchurch.

Burke’s contributions included a try, two try assists and 21 points – 16 of which were scored via his boot as he nailed eight of his nine conversion attempts, most of which were long range efforts from the sideline.

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That drew superlatives from Robertson, who hailed Burke in what was his fourth start for the Crusaders this season, and his first since his side’s shock loss to the Waratahs in Sydney three weeks ago.

“Much more assertive, I felt,” Robertson said of Burke’s performance in the immediate aftermath of the result, which lifts the Crusaders to second on the table.

“Got some good ball, but it’s the sign of any good first-five and 10 when your goal-kickers actually strike it well and are being consistent. Not many tries were scored outside the five-metre [zone], they were right by the sideline.

“He’s taken his form off the field onto it, and he’s done a really good job around being consistent. He doesn’t get many opportunities, so when he does, you have to take them.

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“When you’ve got a championship, franchise-winning quarterback like Richie, they’re few and far between, but he [Burke] took it.”

With next week’s clash against the Reds the final match of the regular season before the quarter-finals get underway, Mo’unga is likely to return to the starting lineup as the Crusaders aim to cement a top two finish.

Doing so would give the Crusaders as many as two – possibly three – home play-off matches, meaning Mo’unga world-class playmaking traits and championship-winning experience will be key to their post-season success.

However, Burke’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by Robertson, who was equally as impressed by the rest of his team’s effort as they crossed for nine tries and conceded none.

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“We’re just really pleased. Three [points conceded] is great, and so is the 61 [points scored], but some great, great signs in that game,” Robertson said.

“A lot of the game, we made a lot of tackles, gave a couple of offside defensive penalties away, and then we corrected those things and were really patient, got some really good hunts and then attacked off that.

“I think we hunted really well and were smart and were clear… and the Drua were brave. I want to note them, how brave they were and they stayed in it for long periods of time.

“It’s tough. I mentioned earlier in the week, it’s a three-to-five-year gig before we start seeing some really good, consistent performances from them.

“All their systems and structures on and off the field have to be right for them to be consistent. We put context into the result, but, also, you’ve still got to execute, so, yeah, we’re pleased.”

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