The Canterbury Crusaders will start as favourites to claim the inaugural Super 14 title when they face the Hurricanes in Saturday’s final.
The Crusaders have won the Super 12 five-times in 10 years and will have home advantage. The Bookies have predicted that the Crusaders will win by 10.
The Hurricanes however are in their first ever final of the provincial tournament and will be filled with confidence after beating the Waratahs twice in successive weeks showing that they are in form and have the whole package.
Both sides are filled with All Blacks and this will be their final chance to impress All Blacks coach Graham Henry before he names his first squad of the year on Sunday.
The back-row battle in particular should be intense, with ex-All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne, current skipper McCaw and Moses Tuiali’i taking on the Hurricanes trio Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe and Rodney So’oialo.
“We’ve concentrated more on what’s made us get to the final than on the Crusaders,” coach Colin Cooper said. “We know pretty much what they’re going to try and do. It’s just about us having confidence in our game.”
The Crusaders aren’t thinking that this is going to be a walk in the park though and their coach Robbie Deans said, “The Hurricanes have achieved consistency this season – a real mental toughness in winning the close tussles,”
“While we beat them in the round-robin clash I believe both teams have moved from there so it really has no relevance to what will happen on Saturday.”
Crusaders: L MacDonald, R Gear, C Laulala, A Mauger, S Hamilton, D Carter, K Senio; W Crockett, C Flynn, G Somerville, C Jack, R Filipo, R Thorne, R McCaw (capt), M Tuiali’i.
Reserves: C Ralph, C McIntyre, S Brett, T Latimer, J Leo’o, C Johnstone, T Kopelani.
Hurricanes: I Toeava, Lome Fa’atau, M Nonu, T Umaga, S Paku; D Holwell, P Weepu; J Schwalger, A Hore, N Tialata, P Tito, J Eaton, J Collins, C Masoe, R So’oialo (capt).
Reservess: L Mahoney, J McDonnell, L Andrews, T Waldrom, B Haami, J Gopperth, T Ellison.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)