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Despite a demoralising 30-20 loss last weekend, the Hurricanes are expected to draw more than 22,000 along to their match-up with the Crusaders tonight. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 1:35pm (AEST).
A sloppy lineout and a masterclass from Blues flyhalf Otere Black saw the Hurricanes go down in front of a capacity crowd in Auckland last weekend, now they’ll have to improve big time in order to compete with the best team in domestic rugby.
While coming off a loss is never a good thing, the Canes’ opponents had a bye in Round 1, meaning they haven’t played since March, which will play a part early on.
The Hurricanes weren’t too far from the mark for the most part, although the lineout was a real issue, and they zoned out for much of the second half.
The Crusaders, prior to the regular Super Rugby season being suspended, found themselves in a very familiar position: on top of the table, with five wins from seven encounters, and two from three against Kiwi opposition.
Despite the three-month break, the Crusaders’ form in those games has made them heavy favourites in this one, a fact which makes sense when you consider the Saders have won their last five against today’s hosts.
In team news, Vaea Fifita comes in for Scott Scrafton and Ardie Savea starts at number 8 after making an appearance off the bench last weekend.
Jordie Barrett will miss a second straight game with a nagging shoulder injury. Chase Tiatia will start at fullback again.
For the Crusaders, normal skipper Scott Barrett has been ruled out with a foot injury, so Codie Taylor will take over the captaincy. Sam Whitelock also slides into the forward pack.
It could go either way. The Crusaders will deservedly start favourites, but this is by no means out of reach for the Hurricanes. However, to win they’ll need to clean up the lineout and give away as few penalties as possible.
Crusaders by nine.
Kick-off: 1:35pm (AEST)
Venue: Sky Stadium
TV: Fox Sports
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
Betting: Crusaders $1.41, Hurricanes $3
Fraser Armstrong, Dane Coles (c), Tyrel Lomax, James Blackwell, Vaea Fifita, Reed Prinsep, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara (c), Jackson Garden-Bachop, Ben Lam, Ngani Laumape, Vince Aso, Wes Goosen, Chase Tiatia
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Ben May, Alex Fidow, Scott Scrafton, Gareth Evans, Jamie Booth, Billy Proctor, Kobus Van Wyk
Joe Moody, Codie Taylor (c), Michael Alaalatoa, Samuel Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Bryn Hall, Richie Mo’unga, George Bridge, Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan
Reserves: Brodie McAlister, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Ethan Blackadder, Mitchell Drummond, David Havili, Leicester Faingaanuku