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PREVIEW: Crusaders v Waratahs

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Friday, May 11, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Waratahs, 5.15pm Saturday 12 May, AMI Stadium, Christchurch. TICKETS.
Played: 24
Won: Crusaders 18, Waratahs 6

FORM
Although both teams were leading their respective conferences at the start of the round, their recent form is starkly different. Since dropping two games early in the competition, the Crusaders have bounced back with six straight wins – including a 55-10 drubbing of the Rebels last week. The Waratahs went on a four-game winning streak before dropping their last two home games to the Lions and Blues. This should be a high-scoring encounter with the Crusaders averaging 32 points per game and the Waratahs averaging 29.9 points per game. 

QUICK TAP: RECORD BREAKER NAHOLO THRIVING IN THE SOUTH

PIVOTAL CLASH
Crusaders fullback George Bridge has been in stellar form in 2018 but faces his biggest test in the form of Waratahs standout Israel Folau. In his six games for the Waratahs this year, Folau has racked up an impressive 17 offloads (fourth in the competition), made 12 clean breaks and beaten 16 defenders. Bridge has been just as impressive for the Crusaders across his nine appearances with seven tries, 13 clean breaks and 27 defenders beaten. With both players great under the high ball, expect plenty of counter attacking from the dynamic opposites.

MOODY RETURNS

The biggest talking point out of the Crusaders camp is the return of All Blacks prop Joe Moody to the side for the first time in 2018. The powerful loosehead prop completes a total change in the front row for the Crusaders from the Rebels clash last week with Codie Taylor and Michael Alaalatoa also starting. Moody got through a Christchurch club game unscathed last week and will pack down against Waratahs veteran Sekope Kepu in what should be a mouth-watering match-up in the front row.
FAST FACT (Opta)
The Crusaders have won 19 of their last 20 home games, including their last 13 in a row.

THE SCOOP

The Waratahs come to the South Island desperate to snap New Zealand’s 38-match winning streak over Australian sides. They got agonisingly close to doing it against the Blues last week but know they face an even tougher task against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday evening. The Waratahs boast a star-studded backline and will need them to unleash every ounce of x-factor they possess if they are to topple the Crusaders.

TEAMS
Crusaders:
George Bridge, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Tim Bateman, Manasa Mataele, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd, Pete Samu, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody,
Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett, Donald Brighouse, Mitchell Dunshea, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Mitchell Hunt, Braydon Ennor

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Michael Wells, Michael Hooper, Will Miller, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson
Reserves: Hugh Roach, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Shambeckler Vui, Tom Staniforth, Jed Holloway, Jake Gordon, Lalakai Foketi, Bryce Hegarty