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Super Rugby Preview: Chiefs v Crusaders

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Thursday, May 30, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Chiefs v Crusaders, 7.35pm Saturday 1 June, ANZ Stadium, Suva, Fiji

Played: 34
Won: Crusaders 21, Chiefs 13
Last time: Crusaders 57, Chiefs 28 (9 March 2019)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe

FORM
The Crusaders have been nigh-on unstoppable in 2019 with just one solitary loss on their record against the Waratahs in round six. The Chiefs have battled a horror injury count to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Against the Reds last week they made a remarkable 242 tackles to cling on for a 19-13 win. They will need to bring the same level of commitment on defence against a Crusaders team that averages a competition leading 4.2 tries per game in 2019.

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FIJI FLING
This match will be the third time that the Crusaders and Chiefs have clashed in Fiji. In 2016, the Chiefs outclassed the Crusaders in a 23-13 victory. The Crusaders turned the tables in 2017 with a 31-24 win. As always, plenty of loud and local support is expected in the Fijian capital to see who can break the Fijian deadlock between the two sides.

SENSATIONAL SEVU
Although it is a Chiefs ‘home’ game in Suva, the Crusaders are expected to get plenty of support with star wing Sevu Reece proving a hit in his homeland. “There were a lot of photographs, and cheers and signs for Sevu as we came into Suva,” says Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. “There's a lot of hype around him, so we've got to make sure we keep eyes on him and he gets the balance right so he can perform on the field."

SELECTION SURPSISES
Both teams have sprung a surprise in their run-on fifteens with Jack Debreczeni getting the nod at first five-eighth over Marty McKenzie for the Chiefs and Braydon Ennor starting on the left wing for the Crusaders in place of George Bridge. Other selection talking points include the return of All Blacks skipper Kieran Read at No.8 for the Crusaders for the first time since May 10 and Billy Harmon in the seven jersey with Matt Todd being given a well-deserved rest.
FAST FACT (Opta)
The Chiefs have had six different players attempt a place kick for goal in the competition, more than any other club this season. They are: Damian McKenzie, Marty McKenzie, Jack Debreczeni, Stephen Donald and Shaun Stevenson.

THE SCOOP

The playoffs may still be a couple of weeks away but this is really knock out footy for the Chiefs. A win against the Crusaders and they are still alive. A loss and they are left to play for pride. A big question will be how much has last week’s mammoth defensive against the Reds sapped the team? If they can repeat their stoic defensive effort and find some magic out wide with their game breakers Etene Nanai-Seturo and Solomon Alaimalo, then the Chiefs cannot be discounted.

TEAMS
Chiefs:
Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson, Alex Nankivell, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sean Wainui, Jack Debreczeni, Brad Weber, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (c), Lachlan Boshier, Tyler Ardron, Jesse Parete, Nepo Laulala, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Atu Moli
Reserves: Bradley Slater, Aidan Ross, Angus Ta'avao, Daymon Leasuasu, Mitchell Jacobson, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Tumua Manu.

Crusaders: David Havili, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Braydon Ennor, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read, Billy Harmon, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Ben Funnell, Isi Tu'ungafasi, George Bower, Mitchell Dunshea, Jordan Taufua, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge