Blackadder back with the Crusaders

Todd Blackadder, the only man to raise the Super 12 trophy three times as captain of the winning team, is back in harness with the Crusaders, after the former captain signed on as a coaching resource to assist with the Crusaders for the 2007 Super 14 campaign.

Six years after he finished his service as a player, Blackadder has rejoined the Crusaders.

The former All Black captain, who is the Director of Rugby with the Tasman Rugby Union, will continue in that role while offering assistance to Crusaders coaches Robbie Deans and Mark Hammett during the campaign.

Blackadder returned to Tasman this year, taking up a role as the fledgling union’s Director of Rugby, after five years in Scotland where he was involved as a player and then coach with the Edinburgh Gunners in the Celtic League and Heineken [European] Cup competitions.

The 12-Test All Black also worked briefly on the back room coaching staff with the Scottish national team.

But even during his time away between 2001 and this year, the Crusaders were never too far from his thoughts.

“They [the Crusaders] have been a big part of my life. I’m delighted to be getting back involved with them,” Blackadder said.

“The legacy the team has built up in the time since I was last there is an imposing one. It’s going to be a huge challenge keeping that going, but it is a task I am looking forward too, especially given that I will be working alongside a few old mates.”

One of those is Deans, who shares Blackadder’s North Canterbury and Glenmark club heritage, and worked closely with his good friend in a captain-coach relationship during the Crusaders’ run to their third Super 12 title in 2000.

“You just have to mention his name and that says it all,” Deans said.

“Toddy is synonymous with Crusaders rugby, and we’re glad to have him back.”

Blackadder will continue in his role with Tasman which Deans stresses is critical, both for the union itself, and for the Crusaders franchise as a whole.

He adds that Blackadder’s participation with the Crusaders, which will involve him being with the side at the start of each week, offers the Makos and important direct link into the Super 14 environment.

A member of the foundation Crusaders side in 1996, Blackadder captained the side on occasion during that first season, and then on a fulltime basis from 1997.

Under his stewardship, the Crusaders broke the Blues early stranglehold on the Super 12 after two titles, before laying the foundation for a dynasty of their own.

After wresting the title away from the Blues with a thrilling 20-17 win in the 1998 Final at Eden Park, the Blackadder-led Crusaders stole the Highlanders’ thunder during the all South Island party that was the 1999 Final, and then rained on the Brumbies’ parade in Canberra a year later while beating the Australians 20-18 to bag title number three.

By the time he headed for Scotland at the end of 2001, having that year helped Canterbury to a second NPC title during his time as a player, Blackadder had wracked up 71 games for the Crusaders, 128 for Canterbury and a dozen Tests for New Zealand, with 11 of them as All Black skipper during 2000.

And all this after starting off his senior representative career as a youngster playing for Nelson Bays against Marlborough in 1990, the year before he made his Canterbury debut.

As well as his three Super rugby titles, Blackadder led Canterbury to its first NPC title in 14 years in 1997, when the Deans-coached side outclassed Counties Manukau 44-13 in the final.

Fittingly Blackadder also bowed out a winner from his Canterbury career, being bid goodbye during a 30-19 win over Otago in the 2001 NPC Final.

“There’s some great memories, both from my time with Canterbury and the Crusaders, but I’ve never been one to dwell on the past, and nor are the Crusaders,” Blackadder says.

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