The Crusaders have edged out the Hurricanes in a very well contested affair in front of a sold out crowd.
Two Super Rugby title aspirants face off tonight as the Crusaders play the Hurricanes in a match that promises to be a very high-quality affair. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 5:30pm AEST.
The unbeaten Crusaders and defending champion Hurricanes will face a major test of their title ambitions Saturday when they meet in the 12th round of Super Rugby.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders are unbeaten in 10 matches and sit atop the New Zealand conference while the Wellington-based Hurricanes are in third place with eight wins from nine games, separated from the Crusaders by the Hamilton-based Chiefs who have nine wins from 10 games.
Both the Crusaders have strolled through recent matches and Saturday’s encounter marks a considerable step up in intensity for both teams with only five regular-season rounds remaining before the playoffs.
Matches between New Zealand teams which dominate the tournament standings have been the best in Super Rugby this season and Saturday’s clash at Christchurch is likely to see another increase in standards.
The intensity in New Zealand derbies remains unrivalled throughout Super Rugby, and with All Blacks jerseys on the line, every player will be keen to leave a great impression in a bid to wear the famed All Blacks uniform.
The Hurricanes and Crusaders are both playing outstanding attacking rugby this season – the Hurricanes lead the tournament with 63 tries – and that will likely lead to an eager battle for possession.
Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett has been superb in guiding his team’s attacking play and he looms as the greatest threat to the Crusaders’ unbeaten record. Their ability to limit the tactical threat of Barrett’s kicking game will go a long way to deciding the outcome.
The Crusaders have gained a new lease on life this season under rookie head coach Scott Robertson. After wretched starts to recent seasons, they have begun this year with an unprecedented winning streak.
But while they have easily won recent matches against inter-conference rivals – beating South Africa’s Bulls 62-24, Cheetahs 48-21 and the Stormers 57-24 in their last three matches – they have been less comfortable against New Zealand opponents. The Crusaders needed remarkable come-from-behind performances to beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders and Auckland-base Blues early in the season.
Their attack has developed in recent weeks and they have been formidable even in the absence of several leading players.
Both teams will be without their regular captains on Saturday. Crusaders’ captain Sam Whitelock is under-suspension and his teammate, All Blacks captain Kieran Read is injured while the Hurricanes will be without Mark Coles, who is recovering from a concussion.
As is the case with every New Zealand derby, this contest should go down to the wire. The Crusaders at home will be keen to prove a point against the reigning champions. Whitelock and Read are big absences however for the Crusaders. With that said, the Crusaders, like all New Zealand teams, possess plenty of depth and should compete well enough to secure a very tight win at home.
Crusaders by 5
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