Preview: Reds v Crusaders

Date published: March 10 2017

The Reds will want an all-round improved performance if they are to stop the Crusaders in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Reds were distraught about their 26-19 loss to the Western Force last weekend especially since they were in the lead for most of the game up until the 66th minute before a Curtis Rona try. That result means that the Reds are two losses for two since the beginning of the competition.

Meanwhile after their incredible comeback win over the Highlanders last weekend the Crusaders will be soaring. The men from Christchurch scored three tries in the final 15 minutes to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat.

Despite their loss last weekend the Reds are still tied for top of the table with the Western Force at five points after a win against the Sharks in their first week. If they were to win this game they could get a decent buffer before touring South Africa and Argentina.

The Crusaders find themselves in an incredibly competitive New Zealand Conference. They sit at third on the table despite winning both their games as the Hurricanes and the Chiefs have two wins under the belt with two try-scoring bonus points.

The visitors will be confident going into the game having won the last five meetings between these sides with the most recent four wins in that run, all coming by 28 and more points. Before that run the Reds had won three on the bounce between the sides, their last victory over the Crusaders came in the 2011 Super Rugby Final. The Queenslanders don’t fare well against the Kiwi opposition in general as they have lost three of their last five at home against New Zealand sides.

The Crusaders have proven to be an excellent attacking team this year after making an average of 159 carries per game this season, 26 carries more than any other team in the competition and a whopping 49.5 more than the Reds.

Reds head coach Nick Stiles was not happy with this side’s display last weekend but is excited to see how the Reds respond to the loss.

“None of us were happy with last week’s performance. We addressed it and moved on and are looking forward to the opportunity to test ourselves against a difficult opponent this weekend.

“We knew there would be setbacks along the way as this group continued its development. The setback isn’t as important as how we respond to it. That’s the challenge presented to the team this weekend.

Stiles went onto say that the rotations to his starting line up is to keep every player on their toes.

“The changes to the starting team reflect the depth we have in the squad at the moment. Everyone has worked hard and deserve their opportunities. As coaches, we want guys challenging for starting spots every week. There are no guarantees when it comes to selection.”

The last time these teams met: The Crusaders claimed an eighth straight Super Rugby win as they saw off the Reds 38-5 with a bonus-point in Christchurch. Six tries were put on the board by the home side with Jone Macilai grabbing the headlines with a hat-trick. Scott Barrett, Jordan Taufua and Codie Taylor scored the Crusaders’ other five-pointers in a comprehensive win. In reply the Reds carded just one score through Campbell Magnay.

Players to watch: After a hat-trick against the Force last weekend the Reds will be looking to flyer Eto Nabuli to perform once again. The Rugby League convert scored three tries last week, one of which showed his quick feet and blistering pace after receiving the ball from the 70 metres out stepping several Force defenders before burning the cover defence to score. The Crusaders will need to be wary.

Digby Ioane will want to prove that he is still Super Rugby quality after his three-year stint overseas. The winger has pace to burn and a deadly eye for the gap, and after his form in the pre-season it looks like he’s still got a knack for try scoring in the Southern Hemisphere. Coupled with his skill and the Crusaders’ exciting play, Ioane will be dangerous this weekend.

Team news: The Reds will give two debuts this weekend with lock Izack Rodda and wing Izaia Perese in line for their run-on debuts for the side. Japan international Hendrik Tui also starts this weekend with Lock Kane Douglas, flanker Adam Korczyk and wing Chris Kuridrani being moved from the starting side to the reserves.

The Crusaders have also made three changes to their side. Flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis will earn his first Crusaders cap at number seven, after Matt Todd strained a calf muscle in training. The other change in the loose forwards is at six, with Pete Samu starting this week and Jordan Taufua providing cover off the bench. Experienced winger Ioane will make his Crusaders debut against his old team this weekend in the 11 jersey.

Form: The Reds were able grab a late win against the Sharks in Brisbane after beating the Durban side 28-26 after a late James Tuttle try. It looked as though the pre-season hype around the Reds might ring true until they suffered a 26-19 loss to the Force in Perth which raised a few eyebrows around their progression from last season.

The Crusaders began the competition with a slow start after a 17-13 win over an innocuous Brumbies side but seem to be gaining momentum if last weekend is anything to by after beating the Highlanders 30-27 win in Dunedin after an incredible comeback. They looked beaten until the 60th minute when they came back with full force scoring three tries in 14 minutes. If they take that attacking attitude to the Reds, the home side might have a heavy defeat on their hands.

Prediction: The Reds will struggle against this dangerous Crusaders side if they keep their momentum from last week. Expect a blowout in Brisbane. Crusaders by 15.

Previous results:

2016: Crusaders won 38-5 in Christchurch
2015: Crusaders won 58-17 in Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 57-29 in Brisbane
2013: Crusaders won 38-9 in Christchurch
2012: Crusaders won 15-11 in Christchurch
2011: Reds won 18-13 in Brisbane
2011: Reds won 17-16 in Brisbane
2010: Reds won 41-20 in Brisbane

The teams:

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper(c)
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Chris Kuridrani

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock(c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3  Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 George Bridge

Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:45 local (8:45 GMT)
Referee: William Houston (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)