SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW: Crusaders v Lions

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019    Getty Images

Match Detail: Crusaders v Lions, Christchurch Stadium, 7:35pm, April 26, 2019 

Played: 14
Won: Crusaders 11, Lions 3
Last time: Crusaders won 37-18, Super Rugby final, August 4, 2018
Referee: Paul Williams

The Lions will be on a high after defeating the Chiefs in Hamilton last week, but the Crusaders are fresh off a bye and were already looking dangerous before their week off. So, a refreshed Crusaders side will be a tough task for the Lions. The Johannesburg-based Super Rugby franchise had a disrupted build-up to last week’s Chiefs match, with head coach Swys de Bruin returning home for medical treatment. They also made late changes with Malcolm Marx and Elton Jantjies starting, despite being named on the bench. This move has since been confirmed by Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli as a deliberate tactic to try and confuse the Chiefs. The Lions will be without Springboks hooker Marx, who has flown back to South Africa as part of the Springboks resting policy. Young first five-eighth Gianni Lombard, who left the field injured last weekend, is also unavailable. Codie Taylor returns to the Crusaders starting side, while Scott Barrett and Matt Todd are both on All Blacks rest duty. In the backs, George Bridge returns to the left wing, Braydon Ennor shifts to centre and Sevu Reece will line up on the right wing. 
The stats are certainly in favour of the home side, in every aspect. The Crusaders have won 10 of their last 11 matches against the Lions, with the Lions last win coming in the 2016 Super Rugby playoffs. To make matters worse for the visitors, the Crusaders will be playing for 25 consecutive Super Rugby victories at home. Their club record is 26 straight wins (2004-2007).
Round 11 is the ‘Salute to Service’ round, where both hosting New Zealand Super Rugby sides (Crusaders and Hurricanes) will pay their respects to those who serve across not only the military, but emergency services as well. The Crusaders will commemorate Anzac Day and deliver a comprehensive ‘Salute to Service’ event. 

20 year old Ngane Punivai has been named on the Crusaders bench and is in line to make his Super Rugby debut. The versatile back is a former Christ’s College first XV captain, and he represented the New Zealand Under 20s side in the Oceania Rugby Championship last year. He featured in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup, playing in Canterbury’s opening game against Tasman. If he takes the field, the Lions will need to be wary of his size and speed. He’s described as a smart player who has an incredible work ethic. 

Keep an eye out on the battle between second five-eighths Elton Jantjies and Ryan Crotty. Jantjies retains the 12 jersey, after playing there against the Chiefs last week. He kicked 13 points and his match up with Crotty promises to be electric. Crotty is yet to score a try out of his seven appearances in 2019, so he’ll be looking to bag one against the Lions on Friday night. 

FAST FACT (Opta Sports)
The Lions’ win over the Chiefs last week was their first in New Zealand since Round 2, 2016. They have never won consecutive Investec Super Rugby matches in New Zealand. 

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Ryan Crotty (VC), 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (C), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Reserves: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Ereatara Enari, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Ngane Punivai *

Lions: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Elton Jantjies, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley (C), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Sti Sithole. Reserves: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Tyrone Green

*Investec Super Rugby debut