The Crusaders will look to build on their impressive start to the season when they host the Jaguares in Christchurch on Friday.
The seven-time champions got out of jail with a late Jordan Taufua try in their 20-19 victory over the Western Force in Perth last weekend which extended their winning run to five matches.
If they beat the Jaguares, they will match their achievement from 2011 when they won six in a row, which was the last time they won more than five consecutive matches in the competition.
The men from Christchurch might have struggled in Perth but there have been plenty of positive signs in their previous fixtures. After Dan Carter and Richie McCaw finished their Super Rugby careers last season, the concern was genuine amongst Crusaders fans about replacing two of New Zealand and indeed world rugby’s all-time greats.
But Carter and McCaw’s absence hasn’t been as bad as expected as their replacements have done sterling work so far.
Richie Mo’unga has impressed with several composed performances at fly-half and Matt Todd has done well at openside flanker in recent matches, after Tim Boys also did well in the number seven jersey during the early part of the Crusaders’ campaign.
There was lots hype around the Jaguares’ entry into the competition but although they have been competitive in most of their matches results haven’t gone their way and they currently find themselves amongst the tournament’s basement dwellers.
An area which the Crusaders will look to exploit is the scrums which they have dominated in most of their previous matches this year. The home side boast the most effective scrum in the competition this season with a 95 percent success rate and they’ve lost just two of 40 scrums on their own feed in total, while the Jaguares have struggled in this facet of play with an 81 percent success rate, which is third lowest overall.
The Crusaders are also one of the tournament’s best attacking teams. They have scored the second most tries (25) and are also next best for clean breaks (90) in the competition with only the Chiefs doing better than them in both departments.
The Jaguares, despite employing an expansive game-plan, are lagging behind with 14 tries scored from their six matches with 53 clean breaks.
Team news: Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder has made five changes to his run-on side. Israel Dagg is named at full-back in his first start of the season for the seven time champions. Props Joe Moody and Wyatt Crockett have rotated so that Moody takes the starting spot this week. Scott Barrett will pair up with Luke Romano at lock and Jimmy Tupou will provide cover. Andy Ellis will be the starting scrum-half and Kieron Fonotia will pair up with Crotty in the midfield. Mitchell Drummond, Sean Wainui and Ben Volavola will provide cover for the backs, while loose forward Tim Boys also comes onto the bench. Inside centre Ryan Crotty will play his 100th game for the Crusaders.
The Jaguares have made nine changes to their starting line-up after last weekend’s loss to the Hurricanes. First-choice skipper Agustín Creevy returns in place of Julián Montoya, who is dropped from the matchday squad. Creevy is joined in the front row by Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro who replaces Ramiro Herrera at tighthead prop while Matias Alemanno comes into the second row in place of Tomás Lavanini and the back row sees Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Facundo Isa replace Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore respectively. In the backs, Gonzalo Bertranou replaces Martín Landajo at scrum-half while Juan Martín Hernández takes over from Nicolás Sánchez at fly-half. Matías Moroni starts on the wing with Joaquín Tuculet at fullback and Jerónimo de la Fuente at centre.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Sean Wainui, 23 Ben Volavola
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Orlando, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Santiago García Botta
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Felipe Arregui, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquín Paz, 23 Lucas González Amorosino
Date: Friday, April 15
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Time: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper, Jamie Nutbrown
TMO: Aaron Paterson