At the moment, no teams can live with the Kiwis – they are sweeping all in front of them. So the ladder-leading, unbeaten Crusaders against fourth-placed, reigning champion Hurricanes is a mouth-watering match-up.
The Crusaders have been superb this season. Scott Robertson has slipped seamlessly into the head coach’s role, leading his team to ten wins from ten games – six with a try bonus-point.
The loss of Richie Mo’unga was dealt with and they have looked better and better as each week has passed. Kieran Read has been in and out with injury as well, with other senior players such as Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty really stepping up to the plate.
The Canes started their title defence like a house on fire, winning their first two games by a combined total of 154-23 against the Suwolves and Rebels respectively. They have played a game less than the Saders and have only lost one match, against the Chiefs in Waikato, and since then they have been superb.
Beauden Barrett has been electric and Jordie Barrett is showing his talents. The continued emergence of Ngani Laumape at 12 has given their already explosive back division another dimension – and all this without Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Both teams come into this game on the back of convincing wins against South African opposition, so will be high on confidence.
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Key battle: Ryan Crotty vs Ngani Laumape
The current All Black 12 faces up against one of his challengers. Laumape has been in great form this season, really starting to fill the void left by Ma’a Nonu’s departure to France.
With Sonny Bill Williams back in New Zealand rugby, the battle for the All Black 12 shirt is going to be one to keep an eye on.
One to watch: Jordie Barrett
Beauden’s younger brother has exploded onto the Super Rugby scene this season. Milner-Skudder’s injury has barely been noticed, as Barrett has filled in superbly, often linking with his brother for tries.
This is his toughest test yet, and if he can keep this form up, there could well be an All Black call-up on the horizon.
The Crusaders have home advantage and that will prove the difference here. After a slowish start, the Saders have been irresistible, blowing away opposition.
In a blockbuster, akin to a finals game, the Hurricanes will certainly offer a tough test, but the men from the south will have just enough to keep their unbeaten run going.