Whitelock woes and a mercy dash - five things from Super Rugby

Wellington (AFP) –


Five talking points ahead of this week's games in Super Rugby:

- Cron's gone -

The NSW Waratahs have confirmed the departure of assistant coach Simon Cron, with reports saying he is set to join outgoing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen at Japanese Top League outfit Toyota Verblitz.

The Tahs did not reveal where Cron was heading, saying only they were disappointed and "he will be sorely missed".

New Zealand skipper Kieran Read has already confirmed he is going to Toyota after the All Blacks' bid for a third successive World Cup in Japan later this year.

Persistent rumours say outgoing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is also poised to join the club and wants Cron, a fellow Kiwi, onboard.

Cron, the nephew of All Blacks scrum coach Mike Cron, was considered a potential head coach at the Waratahs after forging their once-fragile pack into a competitive unit.

- Whitelock's 'can of worms' -

New Zealand Rugby was thrilled to sign Sam Whitelock on a long-term contract but many Kiwi commentators are concerned about the implications for Super Rugby.

Whitelock will skip the 2020 season to play in Japan but will remain an All Black, breaking a long-standing rule against selecting overseas-based players.

Stuff.co.nz rugby writer Richard Knowler said it opened "a can of worms", with the domestic Mitre 10 Cup already suffering a player drain.

"The Super Rugby clubs are no longer immune. It's their turn, along with their supporters and commercial partners, to feel the pain," he said.

The New Zealand Herald's Phil Gifford warned in the long term "our Super Rugby teams would be a mix of rookies waiting to get a start in a Test so their overseas contract would be more valuable, and men in the twilight of their careers.

"Our best players would all be in Europe and Japan."

- Gatland's mercy dash -

Wales coach Warren Gatland has reportedly put his Rugby World Cup preparations on hold and rushed to be with son Bryn after he suffered a serious foot injury playing for Otago Highlanders last week.

The 23-year-old faces surgery and a long rehabilitation after breaking at least two bones and tearing ligaments when his foot became trapped under a crush of players during a match against the Sunwolves.

Wales Online reported that Gatland put family first and immediately jetted to New Zealand after naming his World Cup squad.

He reportedly plans to spend a week ensuring his son, a promising fly-half, is receiving the best possible treatment before he returns to Wales.

- Crusaders' scrum woes -

Two-time defending champions the Canterbury Crusaders may be comfortably topping the table this season but coach Scott Robertson is worried they're giving away too many scrum penalties.

Robertson was fuming his scrum conceded four penalties in a 36-10 win over the Golden Lions last weekend.

"Look, there was a little bit of frustration in our group because things weren't going our way," he said.

"We came right at the end of the game but we gave them a lot of opportunities once they got those penalties."

Robertson knows the scrum will be further tested in three upcoming matches against South African opposition but insisted: "There is a massive amount of work going into it. We will get it right."

- Kriel blow -

Northern Bulls have lost Springbok centre Jesse Kriel with torn ligaments for up to eight weeks as they enter a difficult phase of the season, including a lengthy tour to Australasia.

The 25-year-old was injured during a narrow loss at the Western Stormers last weekend and Johnny Kotze moves from the right wing to outside centre for the match against the NSW Waratahs in Pretoria.

"Jesse being sidelined is a massive loss," admitted Bulls coach Gerhard 'Pote' Human. "He is a world-class player and in great form this season, which may be his last with us."

After the Waratahs, the Bulls host runaway leaders the Canterbury Crusaders, then play four matches in Australia and New Zealand, countries where they have rarely won in recent seasons.