It’s only 15 days until the British and Irish Lions play their first match in New Zealand. Several leading All Blacks are injured presenting fringe contenders with a chance to push for a test place. Who will stand out in this top of the table clash in Suva?
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The Crusaders preserved their faultless record in 2017 with a dominant forward display against the Hurricanes last week. However the competition leaders have struggled in recent times against the Chiefs dropping six of their last eight games.
There are a number of individual clashes which will not only settle the outcome of this contest, but potentially resolve a few questions for the All Black selectors, too.
Chiefs tighthead Nepo Laulala is marking Crusaders loosehead Joe Moody. Moody is almost certain to be in the All Blacks, but Laulala has been knocking on the door for a more regular place and a strong showing here will enhance those prospects.
Dominic Bird has had a dynamic season and could usurp Luke Romano as the preferred third choice lock with another bustling effort. The Crusaders destroyed the Hurricanes in the lineouts last week so the Chiefs will have to be accurate in that department.
Matt Todd plays his 101st Super Rugby match and opposed to Sam Cane will be looking to repeat the form which saw him outmuscle Ardie Savea. Cane is the next captain in line to Kieran Read, but is he the best openside in New Zealand?
With Read and Liam Squire down, Crusaders No.8 Jordan Taufua has become an All Black possibility. Can Taufua step up in this game.
In the backs, Damien McKenzie scored a cracking try in the corresponding fixture last year and will need to continue those high standards to keep Jordie Barrett’s challenge at bay.
Jack Goodhue is an underrated centre and Seta Tamanivalu is thriving on the wing and will be determined to excel in front of his home fans
The Crusaders last win against the Chiefs was 18-17 in Hamilton in 2014.
The Crusaders are approaching their own record for most consecutive Super Rugby wins which is 15 set in 2002-03.
Hopefully this is more exciting than last Saturday. It has all the ingredients for a blockbuster!