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Another final and another Crusaders home game but they welcome the Chiefs – one of the very few sides who have beaten them in years. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog starting from 5:05pm (AEST).
The Crusaders are a phenomenal side with experience and talent everywhere you look, but the Chiefs have found a style of play and form that has seen them shoot up the table thanks to an incredible run of victories. It promises to be an absolute belter of a final.
The home side have been here and done it many, many times before. Their line-up is very settled with no changes from recent matches other than the return of club favourite Braydon Ennor, who has recovered much quicker than expected from a knee injury late last year.
One other curiosity on the Crusaders’ bench is the inclusion of prop Tamaiti Williams, who has only played 13 minutes of Super Rugby so far. Should the Crusaders need to look to their bench for crucial impact, there is talent but also question marks that the Chiefs might well be able to benefit from.
From the Chiefs side, there are obviously big changes from last week’s side who lost to the Blues but very little change compared to the typical team that has had such a good run in the past few weeks.
Two players though were able to shine in that loss to the Blues last week and earn themselves a spot in the matchday 23 for the Final – Zane Kapeli and Pita Gus Sowakula had great games in Auckland and will be excited to get involved against the Crusaders. Importantly for the Chiefs, Luke Jacobson is back after issues with a concussion.
Damian McKenzie has had a cracking season and will start at full-back with Gatland at flyhalf. But don’t be surprised to see McKenzie move to the playmaker role if and when Chase Tiatia comes off the bench.
Gatland is a good player but there’s a concern about his ability against the best and the Chiefs can’t afford for him to go missing.
The Chiefs are underdogs but their pack has really improved this season and their ball retention has been better than the Crusaders in general across the season as has their ability to make clean breaks. That makes the underdogs a serious threat. However, in the end, experience in these high-pressure games will win.
Crusaders by 7.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog starting from 4:55 AEST on Saturday.
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEST)
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Live stream: Stan Sport
Odds: Crusaders $1.12, Chiefs $4.30 (odds via PlayUp)
Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili Talitui, Ethan Blackadder, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, George Bower
Reserves: Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams, Oliver Jager, Mitchell Dunshea, Tom Sanders, Bryn Hall, Dallas McLeod, Braydon Ennor
Damian McKenzie, Jonah Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Bryn Gatland, Brad Weber, Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier, Pita Gus Sowakula, Mitchell Brown, Tupou Vaa’i, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross
Reserves: Bradley Slater, Oliver Norris, Sione Mafileo, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Zane Kapeli, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Rameka Poihipi, Chase Tiatia