Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs brace for Crusaders backlash in ‘critical’ clash

Dylan Coetzee
Super Rugby Pacific: Split with Crusaders star Mo'unga and Chiefs' McKenzie

Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is expecting a backlash from the Crusaders after his side triumphed over the defending champions 31-10 in Christchurch in Round One.

The clash was the perfect platform for Damian McKenzie to announce his return to Super Rugby Pacific with a stunning performance where he arguably outplayed opposite number Richie Mo’unga on the day.

Since then, the Chiefs have kicked on and sit on top of the table after nine rounds without a loss.

The Crusaders have not matched their lofty standards this season, with six wins from eight games.

However, the Christchurch men are still well in the hunt and will be looking to topple the Chiefs on Saturday.

Brace for backlash

McMillian expects Scott Robertson’s men to come out firing and look to set the record straight from the opening-round loss.

“They embarrassed us last year with their urgency and accuracy after we had beaten them in Christchurch a few weeks earlier, so we know what’s coming our way,” McMillan said.

“It should be a banger, and we are hoping a massive crowd comes along to support the lads.”

Meanwhile, Robertson underlined how important the clash is and insists it is an opportunity for his Crusaders side.

“It’s a critical one for both teams in a lot of ways,” Robertson told reporters.

“It’s really important we perform. This is a chance for us.”

Credit for previous win

The incoming All Blacks head coach recalled the opening-round clash and credited his rivals for their performance.

“Look, they [the Chiefs] were great that day, they took some really good, clear opportunities,” Robertson said.

“For 50 minutes it was pretty tight and then bang, bang.”

Robertson emphasised his excitement to lock heads with the competition leaders and claims he “loves” big games like this.

“The way they play, the way we play creates great anticipation,” he added.

“Big players, big names, a lot of great history. I love these ones.”

READ MORE: All Blacks: Outstanding winger in ‘advanced talks’ to join French giants – report