Crusaders

Crusaders v Stormers preview

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Jade Stadium, Christchurch, 19.35 (07.35 GMT)

There is an amazing piece of statistic attached to this game. The two teams have identical track records in their last five games – win-lose-win-lose-win.

That means the cycle will be broken for both … even if there is a draw. But most likely it will be a second consecutive win for the one and a second loss for the other.

But this game is not about statistics. It is all about what influence the Crusaders’ six returning, reconditioned All Blacks will have.

If you look at just some of the names – Leon MacDonald, Aaron Mauger, Daniel Carter, Richard McCaw and Chris Jack – then you must think the Crusaders are in the pound seats.

What team would say no to having players of the calibre of Carter and McCaw in their line-up?

But a glance at the Stormers’ team list would suggest they have some world class players of their own – Brent Russell, Breyton Paulse, Jean de Villiers, De Wet Barry and Schalk Burger.

It is just that the Stormers’ stars have not done themselves any favours this year and have provided only glimpses of their talent.

The Crusaders, however, have managed to bounce back from a disappointing tour of South Africa – where they managed just one win in three starts – keep their play-off hopes very much alive.

And then they have this amazing track record at home – 23 consecutive wins, their last defeat being against the Blues back in February 2004. Their last win against a South African team was against the Cats in 2001 and they have lost only one other game at home against a team from the republic – Northern Transvaal in 1996.

What this tell you? This is one case where statistics do carry some value. You don’t easily beat the Crusaders in Christchurch or any of their other home venues.

But what makes them really dangerous is the quality of their rugby.

The manner in which they disposed of the Bulls last week, without their All Black stars, suggest this team will be in a healthy state for many years to come.

There is no doubt the Stormers will approach this game with some trepidation.

But if they build on the momentum they gained from their win over (admittedly a very poor) Waratahs team last week, the Stormers could be more than just competitive.

They will certainly need to repeat the physical intensity and commitment at the breakdown that they displayed in the win in Sydney and also the victory against the Hurricanes in Wellington two weeks before that.

Prediction: Somehow you can’t see the Stormers getting the better of the Crusaders. They are likely to be more competitive, but will still fall short. The Crusaders by between 10 and 15 points.

Teams:

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

Stormers: 15 Brent Russell, 14 Breyton Paulse, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 De Wet Barry, 11 Dylan Des Fountain, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8Justin Melck, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Luke Watson (captain), 5 Francois Van Der Merwe, 4 Ross Skeate, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Gerrie Britz, 19 Andries Bekker, 20 JP Joubert, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Gio Aplon

Referee: Brett Bowden (Australia)
Touch judges: George Ayoub (Australia), Pollock (New Zealand)
Television match official: Josh Noonan (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley (New Zealand), Lusanda Menze (South Africa)

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