All the action between the Crusaders and Lions in Super Rugby.
The Crusaders’ rematch tonight with a former Super Rugby finals opponent is likely to emphasise how far ahead of the field they are in this season’s title race.
The Crusaders will take on the Johannesburg-based Lions, who they met in the 2017 and 2018 finals, winning the first encounter in South Africa 25-17 and the second in Christchurch 37-18 for their eighth and ninth championships.
The Lions are probably not the force this year that they were in those two seasons when they were by far the best South African team.
They are second in the South Africa conference and only a point behind the first-place Bulls but with a moderate 5-4 record, compared with the Crusaders’ 7-1 which puts them atop the overall table.
The Crusaders’ only loss, to the Waratahs in Sydney, came after the Christchurch terror attacks and after they had to endure a difficult eight days without a match. They have since brushed aside the Hurricanes, 32-8, the Brumbies 36-14 and the Highlanders 43-17 to leave little doubt they are the best team in the competition.
The Crusaders will this weekend again illustrate their almost inexhaustible depth.
Although they are forced to rest centre Jack Goodhue, flanker Matt Todd and lock Scott Barrett in accordance with the All Blacks’ World Cup preparation policy, they can bring back test hooker Codie Taylor and winger George Bridge, who scored 15 tries last year but has played only four matches this season because of a knee injury.
Such is the Crusaders’ depth that coach Scott Robertson has been forced to omit fullback Will Jordan from his match 23, even though Jordan tops the Super Rugby try-scoring list this season with eight.
“That was a tough conversation to have,” Robertson said. “But [Jordan] will get his other opportunity. We’ve got two great fullbacks that are playing good footy. And obviously Sevu [Reece] has come in and George Bridge who we couldn’t leave out either.”
Robertson said resting players of the calibre of Goodhue, Barrett and Todd against the Lions was a risk but one the Crusaders had to take to meet their commitments to the All Blacks and to ensure their own players were adequately prepared for the final surge towards the playoffs.
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Publish date : 2019-04-26 07:03:52