PREVIEW: Crusaders v Hurricanes

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Thursday, July 14, 2016    Getty Images

ROUND 17: Crusaders v Hurricanes, Saturday 16 July, 5.15pm, AMI Stadium, Christchurch

The stakes will be high in this clash with the winner moving to the top of the NZ conference and the loser potentially finishing in fourth place. The Crusaders and Hurricanes have a rich history but haven’t met since 29 May 2015 when the Hurricanes ran away winners 35-18 in Nelson. The Hurricanes have the stronger recent form with four straight wins while the Crusaders lost to the Chiefs in round 15 before thumping the Rebels 85-26 last week. 


A midfield re-jig is the only change to a Hurricanes side which outplayed the Waratahs in Sydney last week. With impressive centre Matt Proctor ruled out with a hamstring strain, the blockbusting Ngani Laumape shifts from the bench to second five-eighth with Willis Halaholo switching to centre. Coach Chris Boyd said: “Willis has been in good form for us all season, he’s got good footwork and a good passing game and Ngani is very powerful, so it’s potentially an exciting duo.”


Although the Crusaders have spent most of the season near the top of the Investec Super Rugby ladder, their defence has begun to show some frailties over the past three weeks. For the first time since 2011, the Crusaders have conceded over 20 points in three straight matches. With the Hurricanes averaging four tries a match and noted as one of the best counter attacking teams in the competition, the Crusaders will need to shore up their defence to shut out the visitors.


While the forward battle will be fierce, this contest could be decided out wide with two dynamic wing pairings squaring off. The proven duo of Julian Savea and Cory Jane were back to their best against the Waratahs last week but will face an intriguing test from Nemani Nadolo and Johnny McNicholl. The 125kg Nadolo leads the Super Rugby stats in clean breaks while McNicholl showcased his growing stature as an attacking force with three tries against the Rebels last week.
Crusaders: 15: Israel Dagg 14: Johnny McNichol 13: Ryan Crotty 12: David Havili 11: Nemani Nadolo 10: Richie Mo’unga 9: Andy Ellis 8: Kieran Read (C) 7: Matt Todd 6: Jimmy Tupou 5: Sam Whitelock 4: Scott Barrett 3: Owen Franks 2: Codie Taylor 1: Wyatt Crockett
Reserves: Ben Funnell, Alex Hodgman, Mike Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitch Hunt, Kieron Fonotia

Hurricanes: 15: James Marshall 14: Cory Jane 13: Willis Halaholo 12: Ngani Laumape 11: Julian Savea 10: Beauden Barrett 9: TJ Perenara 8: Victor Vito 7: Ardie Savea 6: Brad Shields 5: Michael Fatialofa 4: Vaea Fifita 3: Chris Eves 2: Dane Coles (C) 1: Reg Goodes
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May, Loni Uhila, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson Park, Wes Goosen, Jason Woodward.