Planet Rugby

Preview: Crusaders v Reds

19th July 2013 06:27

Share:

Dan Carter v Quade Cooper Crusaders v Reds playoffs 2013

Quade Cooper: Key man for the Reds

The Reds will be eager to extend Ewen McKenzie's tenure by at least one more game but they're unlikely to come up trumps against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Crusaders head into the play-offs on the back of a strong run of form after delivering an inconsistent string of performances in the early stages of the season. Much like the Sharks last season, the men from Christchurch have found form at the right time and have only felt the sting of defeat just once in the last three months.

While wins over the Chiefs, Highlanders and Blues were impressive, the same cannot be said about narrow victories over the Waratahs and last time out against the Hurricanes.

Regardless, it's hard to poke holes in this Crusaders line-up. With an all-All Black tight five, an industrious loose forward trio, the world's best fly-half outside of a handy number nine, a midfield that has perhaps performed better than expected and a very dangerous back three, one appears to have a near-perfect line-up - and we haven't even got to Richie McCaw on the bench yet.

However, as impressive as the team may be on paper, they have showed this season they can be beaten, but it's questionable as to whether the Reds posses the stock to achieve this.

The Reds may also have a front-row packed with internationals but despite some improvement it's not of the same quality as that of their hosts and if the Crusaders get some early dominance, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa and Greg Holmes could be in for a long night.

The battle of the breakdown will not be as straightforward.

The young trio of Jake Schatz, Liam Gill and Eddie Quirk have wreaked havoc in the loose and the tight on many occasions this year, with Gill having executed the most steals this season (10) by any player while Quirk (201) and Gill (175) both feature among the top 20 tacklers in the tournament. Schatz (113) has certainly stretched his legs a fair bit, coming in with the 15th most runs.

They'll come up against Kieran Read, Matt Todd and George Whitelock who haven't done too badly themselves. Like Schatz, Whitelock (112) features in the top 20 run makers and also cracks the top 20 when it comes to tackles made (172). It's Todd though who has made the most tackles of any man on show in Christchurch, with the number seven tacking down an opponent on 239 occasions. Statistics only tell part of the story though, with Read's all-round impact perhaps not registering with the statisticians, but it most certainly has on the park.

However, it's the showdown between Daniel Carter and Quade Cooper that is the most intriguing.

Two players with very different styles but both whom posses the ability to change the game in an instant. While Carter is more adept at dictating proceedings with his boot and pulling the strings with his expert distribution, Cooper's ability to put his team-mates into space and create opportunities for those around him is his biggest asset.

Off the 31 tries that the Reds have scored this term, Cooper has been involved directly in almost a third, scoring three and registering six assists, and you can be sure he has played a part in many more. Whether he will be provided with sufficient space to weave his magic could prove key.

Carter on the other hand is able to adapt to different situations with more ease and certainly has the cool head and experience you would want in a play-off match.

Carter, like many of the Crusaders players are quite familiar with the knockout phase of the competition but McKenzie's Reds are no strangers themselves having reached the semi-finals last year and having claimed a memorable victory over the Crusaders in the final the year before.

There is unlikely to be a repeat of such a performance this time out, not against this Crusaders side and not at their fortress in Christchurch.

Prediction: This really should be the Crusaders match for the taking - 'Saders by seven.

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Luke Whitelock, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Adam Whitelock.

Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Jono Lance, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (vc), 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Luke Morahan.

Date: Saturday, July 20
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
Sunday , September 28
Exeter vs Harlequins14:00
Wasps vs Newcastle14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
Sunday , September 28
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Pumas vs Western Province19:00
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39