Crusaders v Waratahs
Saturday 1 February, 7.05pm at Trafalger Park, Nelson
Won: Crusaders 19, Waratahs 7
Last match: Crusaders 20, Waratahs 12 (23 March 2019)
The reigning champions Crusaders begin their pursuit of an unprecedented fourth straight Super Rugby title with a clash against a dangerous Waratahs side in Nelson. The Crusaders haven’t lost to the Waratahs at home since 2004 but face a huge challenge from the Syndey-siders with a number of key players missing from their 2019 campaign.
When the Crusaders take on the Waratahs in Nelson on Saturday Scott Robertson will begin his quest for a fourth straight Super Rugby title against a familiar figure.
The Waratahs are under the guidance of former Canterbury coach Rob Penney this season.
Robertson spent three years as an assistant under Penney at Canterbury from 2008-2011.
“It’s quite a nice moment in my coaching career and I assume in his as well,” said Robertson.
“He was the first person that gave me the opportunity with the assistant coach role with Canterbury in 2008.
“I regard him as a mentor, a good friend and a good man. He’s got a great rugby mind.”
Robertson has named a strong side for the opening round of the competition, with a number of All Blacks returning to the starting line-up, including Richie Mo’unga, Scott Barrett and Jack Goodhue.
The only omissions from the squad are George Bridge and Joe Mood, who will have an extra week to ready themselves. Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor should come off the bench.
There will be a Super Rugby debut for Tom Christie, who starts in the No 7 jersey. Young lock/loose-forward Cullen Grace is also a chance off the bench.
One man excited more than most for the opening round is loose-forward Tom Sanders who will start at six.
The 25-year-old has had no luck with injuries over the last two years after suffering a fractured ankle in 2018 and dislocated his shoulder in 2019. His time on the side-line has given his a new perspective on rugby.
“You really appreciate the times that you’re back out on the field, even when you’re back on the training field you’re enjoying every moment and not taking it for granted,” said Sanders.
Saturday will mark the beginning of Scott Barrett’s reign as Crusaders captain. He says he’s well aware of what comes with the new title.
“There’s certainly a lot of expectation and the guys who have been in this position before me are some of the great players for this club and New Zealand rugby, so yeah, it is an honour, a privilege and I’m looking forward to it and putting my spin on things,” said Barrett.
Meanwhile, Robertson – who shoulder tapped Barrett for the captaincy at the Crusaders end-of-season party last year – believes the big lock will bring his own style of leadership.
“He’s a quiet leader. He will just go about his work and chip in when he needs to. We’ve got a lot of voices that he can call on,” said Robertson.
The Crusaders will begin their bid for an unprecedented fourth straight title.
“I think it’s important that you look at it around how you’re going to get the best out of this team.
“We’ve got a great group and these guys want to make their own names,” said Robertson.
Crusaders: 15. David Havili, 14. Will Jordan, 13. Braydon Ennor, 12. Jack Goodhue, 11. Leicester Faingaanuku, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Mitchell Drummond, 8. Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7. Tom Christie, 6. Tom Sanders, 5. Mitchell Dunshea, 4. Scott Barrett (c), 3. Oliver Jager, 2. Andrew Makalio, 1. George Bower
Replacements: 16. Codie Taylor 17. Isi Tu’ungafasi 18. Michael Alaalatoa 19. Luke Romano 20. Cullen Grace 21. Bryn Hall 22. Brett Cameron 23. Sevu Reece.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Robbed Abel, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Ryan Mccauley, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Carlo Tizzano, 22 Mitch Short, 23 Jack Maddocks
Crusaders v Waratahs
@ Trafalgar Park
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)