A blockbusting instalment of this great rivalry will resume on Saturday night as New Zealand’s most recent champions square off in a vital round four match at the Cake Tin.
The Crusaders haven’t won in Wellington since 2012 so they will be itching to break that run. While the Hurricanes will be determined to make a statement on their own turf.
Hurricanes on the road
On the back of an arduous trip to South Africa and Argentina, the Hurricanes will be in search of a clinical performance. Some may say that a loss to the defending champs will be detrimental to the Hurricanes season. And this coming just before their first bye. It’s hard to argue with those thoughts considering how close the table ended up last year. Lose this week and suddenly Boyd’s men find themselves on the back-foot in the race to be New Zealand’s top dog.
Not to fear though, the Hurricanes have a promising look about their squad. A look that gives you a sense that these boys are still far from their full potential. Forwards Blade Thomson and Michael Fatialofa have both recently made positive returns from serious injury after coming off the bench against the Bulls and Jaguares respectively. Add in the return of super hooker Asafo Aumua and their pack already has a more fearsome look about it.
In the backs, Beauden Barrett will bring up his 100th game and will be looking to stamp his mark. The back-to-back World Player of the Year is being matched up against young gun Mitchell Hunt. The selection issue this week is to find room for electrifying wing Vince Aso. Aso has proven that he is one of the very best at crossing the chalk and he also provides the skillset required to unlock this rock-solid Crusaders defensive structure.
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) March 7, 2018
A fast start to the competition has given the Crusaders prime billing at the top of the New Zealand conference. And they will head to Wellington with a full head of steam. As always the Crusaders will look to bully the Hurricanes at set piece with the outlook of clocking up points through pure pressure. Their depth will be tested in the loose where a chunk of first choice players are facing lengthy spells on the sideline.
In the backs, Richie Mo’unga takes a spell as a result of a fractured jaw, which could have lasting repercussions for the All Blacks. In his absence, the 10 jersey falls on the inexperienced shoulders of first five Mitchel Hunt to steer the ship. If Hunt can control things without trying to do much, then the class of those around him will ensure that it’s business as usual for this champion side.
— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) March 8, 2018
Player to Watch
Player to watch: Asafo Aumua captivated us in 2017 and we want more of the same in 2018. After being left home in the early rounds Aumua will be itching to prove a point. Whether he starts or makes an impact off the bench I’m sure most rugby pundits will have their eyes glued to this kid when he eventually runs on.
My pick: The Hurricanes will fancy themselves in their own backyard and the importance of banking points at this early stage of the competition will be motivation enough. The Crusaders themselves will mount a strong case for honours this week but the loss of Mo’unga will be too influential in the end. Hurricanes by 5.
If you haven’t already seen the interviews from the Hurricanes and Crusaders camps then don’t miss them. Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee talks all things Hurricanes. And Crusaders coach Scott Robertson reveals a number of insights, including how they stopped Beauden Barrett.
Author: Simon van Ryn
I am a sports mad fanatic who loves watching drama filled code. Growing up in Wellington I have been fortunate enough to witness some great sporting moments at the Cake Tin – non more satisfying than seeing my beloved Hurricanes finally lift that trophy after 21 years of hurt.