SUPER RUGBY Preview : Crusaders vs Reds

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It will be almost a year to the day that the Crusaders cruised past the Brisbane outfit 58-17 and the Reds will be desperate to avoid any repeat of that scoreline this week, even if they do arrive missing their best player so far this season due to injury, centre Samu Kerevi.

A silver lining for the Reds however is the fact that the Crusaders are without the suspended Nemani Nadolo and the fact they will arrive in Christchurch on the back of a home win over the Cheetahs – one feels the former will come as a greater boost to their hopes of an upset.

We aren’t expecting an away victory, let’s put that out there now as the Crusaders – fresh off a bye week – will have too much quality in their side. Factor in a chance to move provisionally top of the Super Rugby standings, above the Chiefs, and they will be a driven bunch.

Currently the Crusaders are five points off the pace-setters while the Reds are surely already playing for next year, of which there’s no shame after a rocky early-season. Now under Matt O’Connor and Nick Stiles, this young group can build foundations to move forward in 2017.

Despite being 23, Nick Frisby is worthy of being a senior player and if he can build a decent partnership with fly-half Jake McIntyre, 22, while a spine that includes James Slipper, Andrew Ready, Rob Simmons and Liam Gill adds solidity, the future can be bright in Queensland.

The Crusaders meanwhile have shown what is possible when veterans depart and few would have predicted them to be in such a strong position after Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Colin Slade and others moved on. Could head coach Todd Blackadder be about to say goodbye with the trophy?

Talk of silverware of course will not be discussed in the Crusaders camp just yet but they do have the pack and qualities out wide in the form of Nadolo and Israel Dagg, with their only concern being the goalkicking of fly-half Richie Mo’unga. At this stage though, that is only a minor worry and a skill he should be able to practice on Friday in what promises to be a positive day at the office for his team.

Previous results:

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
2009: Crusaders won 32-12 in Christchurch

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Mike Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor,1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Marty McKenzie

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Junior Laloifi

Date: Friday, May 6
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Kane McBride
TMO: Chris Wratt


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