Venu: Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
Kick-off Fri 8 Mar: 19:35 (Local)
8 Mar RSA 08:35
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Hurricanes: 15. Andre Taylor, 14. Alapati Leiua, 13. Conrad Smith (c), 12. Tim Bateman, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. TJ Perenara, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Karl Lowe, 6. Brad Shields, 5. Jason Eaton, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Ben Franks. Bench: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Ben May, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Chris Smylie, 21. James Marshall, 22. Reynold Lee-Lo. Injured: Blade Thomson, Eric Sione, Jack Lam.
Crusaders: 15. Israel Dagg, 14. Tom Marshall, 13. Robbie Fruean, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Johnny McNicholl, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Andy Ellis, 8. Kieran Read (c), 7. Matt Todd, 6. George Whitelock, 5. Dominic Bird, 4. Samuel Whitelock, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 1. Wyatt Crockett. Bench: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Joe Moody, 18. Tom Donnelly, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Will Heinz, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Adam Whitelock. Unavailable: Richie McCaw, Luke Romano.
Hurricanes: Away 47 – 45 Rebels
Away 21 – 25 Chiefs
Home 20 – 34 Blues
Away 12 – 18 Reds (most recent fixture).
Crusaders: Home 26 – 27 Hurricanes
Away 21 – 38 Highlanders
Away 16 – 14 Waratahs
Away 15 – 34 Blues (most recent fixture).
Two sides that are desperate for a win start off this round’s action. Unfortunately due to this pressure we’re likely to witness a scrappy, slightly negative match. Of their two performances last weekend the Crusaders played far worse. In their favour however is the fact that their side is much improved on paper especially with Dagg at fullback. We are however concerned about coach Todd Blackadder. All his emphasis on playing a “changed (attacking) style of rugby” surely indicates that the dust in the trophy cabinet is getting to him. Union is all about balance: attack in their half, do not run from within your own 40 unless there is an overlap or a clear gap (because of risk/reward). Will this mindset cost the Crusaders when they unnecessarily get penalized several times in their own half for running rather than safely clearing the ball to the halfway line?
The Hurricanes came very close to a win last weekend however it must be stated that their performance was far from sound. Prop Ben Franks has been terribly off-form thus far and is likely to have yet another poor performance on Friday giving the Crusaders the upper-hand at scrum time. The Hurricanes are also coming off 3 losses on the trot, a clear sign that their team has not yet settled nor clicked.
Betting: Outright: 6/4 v.s 8/15
Handicap: +4 v.s -4
Prediction: This is a tricky match as neither side has decent form at the moment. Based on last weekend’s action we’re going Hurricanes to sneak it in our Superbru picks. At the current pricing we wouldn’t invest in the Crusaders but it is a matter of time before they click!