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Super Rugby Aotearoa’s two undefeated teams meet in Christchurch today with the Crusaders hosting the Blues. Join The Roar for live scores from 5:05pm (AEST).
It’s taken five rounds for us to be treated to this match-up, and rugby fans everywhere will be hoping it’s worth the wait. The Blues and Crusaders have comfortably been the best two sides of the competition so far, and if their early-season form continues, this return matchup in five weeks’ time could be a championship decider.
As it is, even this Round 5 meeting will be crucial in the title race. Today’s winners will have their destiny firmly in their own hands for the rest of the season.
Despite being top of the table thanks to a couple of extra bonus points, the Crusaders still haven’t found their clinical best as yet, but last week’s win over the Highlanders was a great example of how they do whatever it takes to win. The final 40-20 scoreline indicated a demolition, but it was only two late tries to the men in red which decided the fixture.
The Blues are coming off a bye which will have provided them some welcome rest after a tough, three-point win over the Highlanders in Round 3. Their pack has been superb all season, but will be properly tested against the impeccable Crusaders forwards.
If they can get a good platform up front and at the set-piece – a task made more achievable with the returns of Karl Tu’inukuafe and Blake Gibson – it’ll lay the groundwork for the likes of Beauden Barrett, Otere Black and Reiko Ioane to break the game open with some scintillating attacking play.
The Crusaders have gone back to their first-choice back three of David Havili at fullback and All Blacks Sevu Reece and George Bridge on the wings. That means wunderkind Will Jordan will have to wait until later in the game to make an impact off the bench after an impressive two weeks for the Saders.
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEST)
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium
TV: Fox Sports
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (c), 1 Joe Moody
Bench: 16. Andrew Makalio 17. George Bower 18. Oliver Jager 19. Quinten Strange 20. Sione Havili 21. Mitchell Drummond 22. Fetuli Paea 23. Will Jordan
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Bench: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Aaron Carroll, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 TJ Faiane, 23 Matt Duffie