Super Rugby Preview: Crusaders v Blues

Thursday, May 23, 2019    Lynn McConnell    

Match Details: Crusaders v Blues, Christchurch Stadium, 7.35pm, Saturday May 25.

Played: 33
Won: Crusaders 22, Blues 11
Last time: Crusaders 24-22 Blues, Eden Park, February 16, 2019
Referee: Mike Fraser


Just the one loss features on the Crusaders resumé in 2019, against the Waratahs when they went down 12-20 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. They have two draws, 21-21 against the Sharks and 19-19 against the Stormers. They also shared the points with their Highlanders for their abandoned game. Wins have been recorded against: the Blues 24-22a, the Hurricanes 38-22, the Reds 22-12a, the Chiefs 57-28, the Hurricanes 32-8a, the Brumbies 36-14, the Highlanders 43-17, the Lions 36-10 and the Bulls 45-13. It's a different story for the Blues who have five wins, all at home, against the Sunwolves 28-20, the Highlanders 33-26, the Stormers 24-9, the Waratahs 32-29 and the Chiefs 23-8. Losses have been against the Crusaders 22-24, the Sharks 7-26a, the Jaguares 19-23a, the Chiefs 29-33a, the Highlanders 12-24a and the Brumbies 21-26.


Back on home turf after their South African excursion, the Crusaders have loosehead prop Joe Moody back in the side with George Bower moving to the reserves. Andrew Makalio will start at hooker and with Codie Taylor not named in the squad there is a chance Brodie McAlister could make his debut from the bench. In the loose forwards No.8 Kieran Read is on All Blacks' rest while Jordan Taufua has returned to the blindside of the scrum with Ethan Blackadder back on the bench while Whetukamokamo Douglas will start at No.8. If statistics are anything to go by there may be as little in this game as in their first encounter in the opening game of the season. The Crusaders have the best tackle percentage in the competition with 87 percent while the Blues are fourth on 86. The Blues have made the most carries in the competition with 131 while the Crusaders are third with 118.9. The Crusaders are top of the clean breaks with 13.5 per game while the Blues are seventh on 10.6. So far as scrum success goes the Blues are the best at 97 percent with the Crusaders ninth on 90 percent.


Reflecting the tough time of the season, without the usual June international window, teams are having to dig deep on resources and the Blues are no different. Leni Apisai gets a second start at hooker after Matt Moulds was ruled out last week with a season-ending hand injury, and career-ending, liaison with the side. Props Ofa Tuungafasi and Alex Hodgman will start again while No.8 Akira Ioane will play his 31st consecutive Super game. Blues coach Leon MacDonald said the side would not be falling into the trap of claiming the game was crucial. "We have had the same approach every game and that is to strive to produce quality performances and to improve every week. If you put on a performance of quality over 80 minutes, then positive results are likely to follow, and we are getting closer to that. We know that we will need to be at our very best against the Crusaders. Just like the people of the region, they know how to dig deep in times of adversity, and so we know what to expect."


As well as having won 10 of their last 11 games against the Blues, the Crusaders go into Saturday's game unbeaten on their last 26 games on home turf.


The Blues top the competition for time in possession in 2019. Going into the Crusaders game they have had possession for an average of 18 minutes and four seconds.


Crusaders:.Joe Moody, 2.Andrew Makalio, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Jordan Taufua, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Whetukamokamo Douglas, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Sevu Reece, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Brodie McAlister, 17.Isi Tuungafasi, 18.George Bower, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Ethan Blackadder, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Braydon Ennor.

Blues: 1.Alex Hodgman, 2.Leni Apisai, 3.Ofa Tuungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Tom Robinson, 7.Blake Gibson (captain), 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.TJ Faiane, 14.Caleb Clarke, 15.Melani Nanai.