Preview: Crusaders v Chiefs

Date published: April 17 2015

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_Crusaders_prop_Nepo_Laulala_against_Chiefs

A vital derby kicks off Round Ten of Super Rugby as the Crusaders look to right some wrongs from that Hamilton hammering against the Chiefs.

The 40-16 demolition in Hamilton saw the Chiefs look a level up on their New Zealand rivals, who seemed in their usual early-season slumber.

Victory meant that since the start of the 2012 campaign, Dave Rennie's outfit have won 66 percent of their nine meetings with the Crusaders.

Such is the hoodoo the Chiefs currently hold on the seven-time winners, Todd Blackadder's men have failed to hit double figures during the first-half of their last four games against them and worryingly have also not mustered more than ten second-half points in those games too.

There is a feeling that may change this week though as the returns of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw alongside the likes of the in-form Nemani Nadolo, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Jordan Taufua, Israel Dagg and Ben Funnell on their Christchurch patch will surely trouble the scorers.

Furthermore, the Crusaders boast the strongest scrum in the competition so far this season and it's worth noting that even with Owen Franks benched, Nepo Laulala will do a top job alongside Funnell and Wyatt Crockett. Funnell versus Hika Elliot also has its own All Black subplot.

Onto the Chiefs, who are fresh from a bye week that was preceded by victories over the Cheetahs and Blues. This result is just as important to them as a win would likely knock the Crusaders out of the fiercely-contested conference reckoning.

In contrast, a loss could lead to an eight-point gap being opened at the summit by the Hurricanes, with the Highlanders and Christchurch outfit then breathing down their necks.

It's all set up for a classic once again between these two sides who, despite the game's importance, won't go into their shell this Friday.

The last time these teams met: The Chiefs tore the Crusaders to shreds in Hamilton as tries from Sonny Bill Williams, Augustine Pulu, Charlie Ngatai, Tom Marshall and James Lowe saw them to a 40-16 victory. The visitors were worryingly flat at Waikato Stadium as only Andy Ellis' try and eleven points from the boot of Colin Slade troubled the Chiefs, who in contrast were in devastating form on their home patch.

Players to watch: Plenty of options here as soon-to-be ex Crusaders Dan Carter, Tom Taylor and Colin Slade are in the 23. The decision from Slade was a blow to the New Zealand franchise and All Blacks but he'll want to bow out with a trophy so watch him go. In the pack it's a big game for Richie McCaw up against Sam Cane while Brad Weber looks to build on his good recent showings.

Team news: Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder has made five changes to his starting side, with Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter coming in for Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Jimmy Tupou, Matt Todd and Ryan Crotty. Meanwhile, the Chiefs welcome back Sonny Bill Williams as they also make five tweaks. Brad Weber, Charlie Ngatai and Tim Nanai-Williams come in while Tom Marshall moves to 15.

Form: It's getting close to a must-win situation for the Crusaders as they have lost four out of eight games so far this season, with the latest defeat coming in Christchurch against the Highlanders. That leaves them a worrying eleven points adrift of the Hurricanes in the New Zealand conference with the Chiefs and Highlanders above them.

Meanwhile, Dave Rennie's men started the season with three victories but then losses to the Highlanders and Sharks either side of a win in Cape Town. Since then they have beaten the Cheetahs and Blues before a bye.

Prediction: One thing is certain and that is to not expect anything like the Hamilton scoreline, as the Crusaders know just how vital this match is and will be desperate after losing to the Highlanders. However, we can just see the visitors sneaking it. Chiefs by 3!

Previous results:

2015: Chiefs won 40-16 in Hamilton
2014: Crusaders won 18-17 in Hamilton
2014: Chiefs won 18-10 in Christchurch
2013: Chiefs won 20-19 in Hamilton
2013: Crusaders won 43-15 in Christchurch
2013: Chiefs won 28-19 in Hamilton

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 David Havili, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Mitchell Drumond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Pauliasi Manu, 19 Michael Fitzgerald, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Bryce Heem.

Date: Friday, April 17
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT, 17:35 AEDT, 09:35 SAST)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Kane McBride, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Ben Skeen

COMMENTS