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The Sunwolves face their toughest test of the Super Rugby season, a game against the Crusaders in Brisbane. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 4:35pm (AEDT).
It’s by far the most clear-cut game this year. The Crusaders, defending a three-peat, take on the three-time wooden spooner Sunwolves. After an early – and promising – win against the Rebels, the Japanese team’s season has derailed. They’ve conceded 40-plus every time since then and sit in last place, with only the most optimistic of fans giving them a chance to play finals.
COVID-19 has caused two of their home games to be relocated to Australia, the second of which is tonight, meaning that they effectively play a six-game tour, which has taken its toll.
While the Crusaders have been nowhere near as dominant as years gone by, they still shape as one of the best teams this year. They trail the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference, but only by points differential, while still holding down a spot in the top four. A win tonight should see them top the Kiwi group, as the Chiefs have a much tougher match-up against the Hurricanes.
However, with three gruelling Kiwi derbies coming up, against the Hurricanes, Highlanders, and Blues, the coming few weeks could decide where the Canterbury locals finish.
In team news, Scott Robertson has rested a number of All Blacks, in Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Scott Barrett, Jack Goodhue, and Richie Mo’unga.
Bryn Hall will captain from nine, Brett Cameron will join him in the halves, while the one change in the back line is Braydon Ennor coming in for Goodhue. Only three players remain from last week’s pack: Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, and Mitchell Dunshea.
The Sunwolves made two changes to the pack: Ben Hyne comes in for Kotaro Yatabe and Mitch Jacobson slots in for Shunsuke Nunomaki. Siosaia Fifita moves from 13 to 14, James Dargaville takes over from Yoshizumi Takeda, and Keisuke Moriya is at outside centre.
It’s a pretty straightforward tip. Sunwolves have been poor since their opener, the Crusaders are practically on the plane home already.
Crusaders by 25.
Time: 4:35pm (AEDT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Odds: Crusaders $1.004, Sunwolves $41
Last meetings: Crusaders 33-11, Crusaders 50-3
Nic Mayhew, Efitusi Ma’afu, Conraad van Vuuren, Ben Hyne, Michael Stolberg, Justin Downey, Mitch Jacobson, Jake Schatz (Co-C), Rudy Paige, Garth April, Tautalatasi Tasi, Ben Te’o, Keisuke Moriya (Co-C), Siosaia Fifita, James Dargaville. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Isi Tuungafasi, Michael Alaalatoa, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Tom Sanders, Ereatara Enari, Fergus Burke, Manasa Mataele.
George Bower, Brodie McAlister, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Mitchell Dunshea, Sione Havili, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Bryn Hall (C), Brett Cameron, Leicester Faingaanuku, Dallas McLeod, Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece, George Bridge. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Isi Tuungafasi, Michael Alaalatoa, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Tom Sanders, Ereatara Enari, Fergus Burke, Manasa Mataele.