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The Crusaders have won all 3 of their matches this season and taking 2018 into account its now 18 straight victories. They scored 2 early tries and then held their own in a 22-12 win away to the Reds in Brisbane last week and they return to New Zealand having already got the better of 2 local rivals in the early rounds.
The Crusaders started their defence of the title by edging out the Blues 24-22 in Auckland and they followed up with a 38-22 win at home to the Hurricanes, their only home fixture so far. They haven’t eared a bonus point this season and one that certainly got away was in the home win over the Canes where having led 24-0 at half time they left the door open for the Canes to score 4 tries in the second half.
Whilst it’s been business as usual for the Saders the Chiefs are having a torrid time. Last week they were 25.5 point favourites for a home fixture against the Sunwolves but they went down 30-15 in Hamilton in a display littered with errors.
The Chiefs also crashed and burned away to the Brumbies in Round 2, conceding 8 tries and scoring 2 in a 54-17 defeat in Canberra. They went into that game at around 7.5 point favourites but were 33-10 down by half time and any fightback failed to materialize.
Their opening match of the tournament at home to the Highlanders was much closer, both in terms of the pre-match betting markets and then the scoreboard. The Chiefs led 19-10 at half time but eventually went down 30-27 even though the Highlanders were a man short in the closing moments. A losing bonus point from that game is the Chiefs only log point earned so far and they are bottom of the overall standings with a points difference of -55.
Although the Crusaders have won their last two games against the Chiefs, you have to go back to a four-game streak between 2009-2011 for the last time they won more against them in succession; and bearing in mind the Chiefs have won each of their last three regular season games away from home against the Crusaders, maybe a home victory is not a foregone conclusion.
That being said the Crusaders were undefeated at home in 2017 and their nine-game winning streak on their own turf is their best since an 11-game streak from 2012 to 2013. In fact they have won seven of their last eight games against fellow New Zealand opposition – four of those wins coming after they were level or trailing at half-time, so don’t write them off at the break if they aren’t on top.
Hitting their stride early has been a signature of this current Chiefs side, they have opened each of their last five Super Rugby campaigns with a win, after doing so just once in the eight seasons prior, if they can continue this theme this weekend then it will be a great springboard for 2018.
The last time the teams met: These sides faced off in the semi-finals in Christchurch last year and the Crusaders proved too strong for their visitors and eventually won 27-13 after leading 10-6 at half-time. Seta Tamanivalu led the way for the home side with a 10-point haul courtesy of a brace of tries and Israel Dagg and Bryn Hall also dotted down with Richie Mo’unga kicking two conversions and a penalty.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty (captain), 11 Braydon Ennor, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Harry Allan, 18 George Bower, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 David Havili
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross
Substitutes: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Alex Nankivell