PREVIEW: Waratahs v Crusaders

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Friday, March 22, 2019    Getty Images

Match details: Waratahs v Crusaders, 9.45pm, Saturday 23 March, Sydney Cricket Ground.

Played: 25
Won: Crusaders 19, Waratahs 6
Last time: Crusaders 31, Waratahs 29 (12 May 2018)
Referee: Jaco Peyper

Although the Waratahs are languishing in third place in the Australian conference, their form has been better than their place on the ladder suggests. They opened their campaign with a one-point loss to the Hurricanes before emerging victorious against the Sunwolves and Reds and picking up a losing bonus point against the Brumbies. The Crusaders have been at their imperious best with four straight wins before splitting the points with the Highlanders last week in the match that was cancelled in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks. 


The Crusaders pulled off one of the great Super Rugby comebacks the last time they faced the Waratahs. A rampant Waratahs side ran out to a 29-0 lead after 30 minutes before the Crusaders scored 31 unanswered points to secure the unlikely victory.

Israel Folau has hit the ground running in 2019 and stands on the cusp of history. The versatile outside back sits on 58 career tries in Super Rugby, just one short of Doug Howlett’s record of 59 tries. He has been at his eye-catching best for the Waratahs in the early rounds with 285 run metres, 13 defenders beaten and seven clean breaks made. His battle with opposing fullback David Havili will be one of the most eagerly anticipated one-on-one clashes in the game.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson knows a thing or two about the Crusaders as a former player and assistant coach at the club. He believes the Christchurch-based side will be galvanised by the tragedy in the city and motivated to put on a strong performance for their fans back home. "It's a huge tragedy that's occurred in Christchurch. But once the whistle goes I'm sure it'll be back to business for them.Rugby is one avenue where it can be an outlet beyond just the sporting and society confine, so I think you'll see the team really going out and playing for a purpose," Gibson said.
The Crusaders have won their last 15 Super Rugby games against Australian opposition. Their last defeat came against the Waratahs in 2015.

The Crusaders are attempting to become the first team in Super Rugby history to win 20 straight games but it won’t come easy against a Wallabies-stacked Waratahs side. The Waratahs will be eager to avenge last year’s two-point loss to the Crusaders and show to the rest of the competition that the Crusaders can be toppled. With an average of 15 clean breaks per game, the Crusaders are at the peak of their attacking powers which means the Waratahs defence will have to function in perfect unison if they are to keep the scoreboard under control.

Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Alex Newsome, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (c), Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jed Holloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes. Reserves: Andrew Tuala, Rory O'Connor, Chris Talakai, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Wells, Jake Gordon, Mack Mason, Karmichael Hunt.

Crusaders: David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Brett Cameron, Bryn Hall, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Samuel Whitelock (c), Quinten Strange, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Harry Allan, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Tom Sanders, Ere Enari, Mitchell Hunt, Will Jordan.