Super Rugby Playoff Preview: Crusaders vs Reds – Crunch time

THE FACTS

The Crusaders host the Reds – in what looks to be a mouth-watering encounter – for the right to enter the 2013 Super Rugby semi-Lions Fixturesfinals.

The ‘Saders have named a strong team, which notably includes All Black captain Richie McCaw for the first time this season after he used his sabbatical to rest through the group stages. McCaw will start from the bench and will be expected to make an impact in the second half.  Matt Todd starts in the no.7 jersey in what will be his 50th Super Rugby cap for the franchise and All Black Luke Romano returns from an ankle injury to link up with Sam Whitelock in the second row.

The Reds welcome back Wallabies James Horwill and Will Genia who will be captain and vice-captain respectively. These two players’ experience will be crucial in directing this relatively young team against a proven side. The team will rely heavily of their back rows ability to win ball from a ferocious Crusaders pack and will expect 22 year old Jake Schatz to play a big role in what will be his 50th appearance for the side. A new wing pairing of Wallaby Dom Shipperley and Chris Feauai-Sautia will look to light up the back line and inject the pace needed to overcome the seven times champions.

The match on paper looks to be a thriller with a total of 13 All Blacks fronting up against 14 Wallabies. It promises to have the intensity of a test match and should prove to be the one to watch this weekend.

THE BATTLES

The battle of the no.10’s will dominate the build-up to this match. The text book style of the world’s no.1 pivot, Dan Carter, will front up against the mercurial attack of Wallaby Quade Cooper. Both are incredible players in their own right and will look to set the tone of the match from their hands and feet. Both are established kickers and both love to run with ball in hand, but who will prevail? The immaculate running lines of Carter or the dodging, duking and ducking style of the “most hated” pivot in world rugby?

The competition between the back rows will be all-out war. The Crusaders pride themselves on their ability to disrupt opposition play and pilfer ball from seemingly impossible situations. Sam Whitelock and Matt Todd have come into their own this season making up for the loss of legendary All Black Richie McCaw to his sabbatical.  All Black captain Kieran Read will look to continue his good form this season at no.8 and provide devastating runs from the back of the scrum. Against them the Reds have one of the most exciting young back row combinations in Eddie Quirk, Liam Gill and Jake Schatz, who have over the last few seasons proven that age and experience is not the be-all and end-all. They are a hardworking, hard running new generation of loosies and will be out to prove themselves against some of the best in the business.

THE PREDICTION

Either way you look at it, this is going to be a tight one. Both teams are former champions and know what it takes to win this competition. However I feel that Christchurch is just too much of a fortress for the Crusaders and home ground advantage will help them edge this Reds team. Crusaders to win by between 3-5 points.

THE SQUAD

Crusaders

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

Reds

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

THE TIME AND PLACE

Saturday 20th July 19:35 NZT (09:35 CAT, 08:35 BST) AMI Staduim, Christchurch.

MM

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