Historically the Blues vs Crusaders fixture is one of the most hotly anticipated matches on the calendar. This year the two big Kiwi rivals square up in contrasting circumstances.
The Crusaders are sitting pretty at the top of the standings, while the Blues continue to languish towards the bottom of the pile. Sonny Bill Williams and co will be desperate to flip the form book and get one over their old nemesis. This is your week’s match if the round.
The Blues big test
The Crusaders have always been the standard setters in Super Rugby. Nothing has changed this year as they continue to set the pace and for the Blues, it, unfortunately, means it doesn’t get any easier on Saturday night. They showed improvements against the high flying Hurricanes in their last outing but were again outclassed in the final twenty minutes by a better team. If they are going to get the W this week, they need to find a way to stay in the fight.
The key for the Blues is to have a crack and chance their arm on attack. The running ability of Stephen Perofeta at 10, along with the firepower outside him, gives the Blues a real potent look about them. The big problem that is currently preventing them from unleashing that talent, is their set piece. They will need to muscle up against the best pack in the business and challenge the likes of Sam Whitelock in the air if they are going to be any chance in this contest.
Catch me if you can
The Crusaders will be eyeing another Blues scalp as they attempt to maintain a slim lead over the Hurricanes atop the Super Rugby standings. The Crusaders will be searching for a more clinical display after their perplexing performance against the Waratahs last week almost left them red-faced. Razor’s men will know full well that if they give up 29 points to the Blues like they did to the Waratahs, there won’t be any fairy-tale comeback.
The Crusaders need to approach this match by giving the Blues full respect. If they are slightly off, the likes of SBW and Rieko Ioane have the ability to pounce, in the same context as Israel Folau managed in Christchurch. The Crusaders need to play to their strengths and dominate at set piece. The Blues were sloppy in both scrum and lineout against the Hurricanes and it ended up being the point of difference in a tit for tat affair. Add in the fact that the Crusaders have an All Black tight five and you can almost picture the demolition job.
Player to watch: Sonny Bill Williams
Source: Andrew Forde – YouTube
SBW showed some juicy touches in his comeback match against the Canes. He was also superb on defence and exemplified exactly why the All Blacks are keen to have him back in the selection frame. The Blues are a different beast with Sonny on the park as he brings out the best in those around him, none more so than the young and inexperienced.
The first try by the Blues was the perfect illustration of how Sonny Bill Williams stamps his mark on a match. His presence gave Stephen Perofeta the confidence to take it to the line, a quick cut back to the man himself and all of a sudden Orbyn Leger was crossing the chalk. If he can lead from the front with moments like that, then the Blues must give themselves a shot at taking down this Crusader juggernaut.
Source: All Blacks – YouTube
The Blues most definitely have the firepower to cause an upset in this match but the class of the Crusaders should still be too much for them to handle.
Crusaders by 10.
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.