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SR Aotearoa Preview: Crusaders v Chiefs

by Lynn McConnell

Having had the measure of the Crusaders in their last two Super Rugby meetings, the Chiefs head to Christchurch for Sunday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa game with plenty of incentive.

An old fashioned war of words has broken out after Crusaders loosehead Joe Moody popped some comments in the direction of his All Blacks teammate, tighthead prop Nepo Laulala.

That has fired up the Chiefs who are already under the gun as a result of being winless as the revised competition heads into its third round.

Equally, the Crusaders who are at home for the first time have plenty of reason of their own having those two consecutive losses to the Chiefs in recent outings.

While they are one game behind the others in the competition, they showed in their first outing that they retained all the hallmarks of the Crusaders from recent years.

Even without captain Scott Barrett who has required surgery for his foot, the side has the experience of All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock to utilise. The Chiefs should get a boost by the likely return of flanker Sam Cane from a back strain.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson hasn’t tinkered too much with his starting XV and, being at home, they have every reason to be on their mettle.

Robertson said: “We know the nature of the competition, it’s a sprint. Short and sharp. We’ve got four games and a bye, we just want to get a rhythm early, give these guys an opportunity to play together, build those combinations.

“It’s really important to get off to a good start, and that’s what we’ve done with the team that’s played well last week, we’ve rewarded them and given them another crack,” he said.

Assistant coach Neil Barnes said the Chiefs were annoyed with themselves in not meeting their high expectations.

“We have had a reasonable amount of chances where we have got the right place on the field, and we have messed them up. So, it’s about us, and our detail and all our games so far have been pretty tight. If you don’t nail those opportunities straight up, you come second,” he said.

At the same time, the Chiefs couldn’t afford to make mistakes as the Crusaders had been quick to pounce on those made by the Hurricanes last week. They would have to be at their best, he said.

“You can’t give them mistakes and, if you’ve got an opportunity yourself, you’ve got to take it. It’s going to be that tight. We’re up for it and can’t wait,” he said.

The teams are:
Crusaders: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Codie Taylor (captain), 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Sam Whitelock, 5.Mitchell Dunshea, 6.Cullen Grace, 7.Billy Harmon, 8.Whetukamokamo Douglas, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo’unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Jack Goodhue, 13.Braydon Ennor, 14.Sevu Reece, 15.Will Jordan.
Substitutes: 16.Brodie McAlister, 17.George Bower, 18.Oliver Jager, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Ethan Blackadder, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.David Havili, 23.Leicester Faingaanuku.

Chiefs: 1.Aidan Ross, 2.Bradley Slater, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Mitchell Brown, 5.Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 6.Lachlan Boshier, 7.Sam Cane (captain), 8.Pita Gus Sowakula, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Sean Wainui, 12.Anton Lienert-Brown, 13.Quinn Tupaea, 14.Solomon Alaimalo, 15.Damian McKenzie.
Substitutes: 16.Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17.Reuben O’Neill, 18.Ross Geldenhuys, 19.Adam Thomson, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Lisati Milo-Harris, 22.Kaleb Trask, 23.Tumua Manu.

Referee: James Doleman

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© 2020 Lynn McConnell

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