Crusaders

Crusaders v Chiefs preview

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Jade Stadium, Christchurch, 19.35 (07.35 GMT)

“Time to step up.” This is how Crusaders coach Robbie Deans headlined his regular weekly column on the team’s website.

It sums their situation up perfectly. They can’t afford a repeat of last week’s bumbling performance (a 6-15 loss to the Brumbies in a try-less game), because there are no second chances.

No doubt the Chiefs pose a real threat, even if the Crusaders have been unbeaten in 26 successive games at home. This run must come to an end at some stage, but there could be no worse time than in a semi-final.

At least the Crusaders know they have their destiny in their own hands and don’t have to worry about all the numerous play-off permutations.

As assistant coach Mark Hammett said this week, they must focus on their own game and the quality of the rugby they know they can produce.

“The only thing we can control is how we prepare and play, so that is all we will be focusing on,” Hammett said.

“There were areas of our performance last weekend [against the Brumbies] that we weren’t entirely happy with and we have been working on those.”

Hammett acknowledged that the threat the Chiefs pose.

“The Chiefs are playing very well and will be a huge threat all over the park,” Hammett says. “It’s a huge challenge, but that’s exactly as it should be at this time of the season!”

And needless to say the Chiefs will be backing themselves for victory after winning their last four games on the trot and six of their last seven outings. In fact it is a comeback of astronomical proportions. They went winless for the first five rounds, but bonus points (they collected five of those during this period) ensured they did not lose touch altogether.

“One thing’s for sure we’re going down there [Christchurch] this week to win. We firmly believe we can,” hooker Tom Willis said.

The one aspect of the game in which the Chiefs can stand up to the Crusaders is up front. In fact they may just have the edge in the forward exchanges.

“We’re into the last round and we’ve played some big packs, some aggressive packs and some quick teams, so if we’re not ready now after 12 rounds we never will be,” Willis said.

Prediction: Expect the Chiefs to make a real fist of this. In fact the Crusaders will need to be on top of their game, but we expect they will be. The Crusaders to win by about 10 points.

Teams:

Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richard McCaw (c), 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Ben May, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Rua Tipoki, 22 Johnny Leo’o

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Roy Kinikinilau, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Keith Robinson, 4 Jono Gibbes (c), 3 Nathan White, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Simms Davison
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Ben Castle, 18 Kristian Ormsby, 19 Steven Bates, 20 Byron Kelleher, 21 Murray Williams, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand) Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley

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