As Round Three of the 2013 Super XV gets underway we have the mouth-watering clash between arch-rivals the Blues and the Crusaders to look forward to. After the perfect start to Sir John Kirwan’s coaching tenure last week the Blues will be growing in confidence, while the red and blacks are embarking on a campaign with the weight of expectation firmly on their shoulders.
Can the exuberant Aucklanders make it two from two, or will the experience of the champion Crusaders overwhelm the young upstarts? To find out what the fans think we’ve sought the opinions of Ian, a true-blue man through and through, and Tim, a passionate Crusaders supporter.
What are you hoping to see from your team this weekend?
More of the same really, it was a great start last weekend, a pleasant surprise, but that has taken the expectation level up a notch and we’ll find out how the players can cope with that increase in expectation. The Crusaders will be a tough task, but we took them at Eden Park last year and we need to start making our home a fortress if we are going to be able to succeed in what is a very competitive conference.
I’m hoping to see some X-Factor from the Red and Blacks. It’s well known in Canterbury rugby circles that Todd Blackadder is under immense pressure to produce a title-winning side this year, and he’s made the confident declaration that we can expect a re-invented style of play from the Crusaders in 2013. So let’s see it tonight!
What strengths will your team bring to the game?
Hopefully we’ll have more of the same enthusiasm; we never gave up against the Hurricanes and we’ll need more of the same on Friday night. We’ve got a winning record against the Cantabs, so we need to use that to our advantage and come out of the traps flying, putting them under pressure before they have a chance to get going.
Experience. The Crusaders success has been built around consistent, experienced performers executing a gameplan precisely, and we should see players like Carter, Read and Dagg slip straight back in to their cut-throat style of play. The Crusaders will be well prepared, ready to battle for a full 80-minutes, and determined to get off to a winning start.
What weaknesses do the opposition have which your team will look to exploit?
We need to test a fairly fresh faced Tom Taylor at full-back. If we can pressure him from the off it could be a key to our game. Same goes with Dagg on the wing, it’s not his preferred position so we’ll see how he feels after a Frank Halai’s run at him a few times!
I think the Blues’ forward pack is weak, and the Crusaders’ pack particularly strong. For all the flair the Aucklanders may possess in the backs they can’t achieve anything without the ball, and I think the Cantabs will dominate up front. I think the ‘Canes took their foot off the throat last week too, something the Crusaders are unlikely to do once they gain the upper hand.
Who will be your side’s key player?
Against the ‘Canes one of the keys was the forwards managing to keep our momentum going, if we can get good front foot ball we’ll give the Crusaders a great game. Last week Steven Luatua was immense, he’ll need to keep making that advantage line with his ball carries to keep us ticking over.
There are plenty of important players, and I will be interested to see whether Tom Taylor is able to inject some excitement in to the backline from fullback, or whether he is simply safe and solid. But the key is obviously Dan Carter. If he can hit the ground running and direct the team around the field the Crusaders will suffocate their young, flamboyant opposition.
How will the match unfold?
I hope that we’ll put them under pressure and score some points early on. I see it being a fairly open game, just hoping that we win the try-fest. I’m a bit concerned about Piri’s boot, hopefully it won’t come down to who gets their kicks as they have both Carter & Taylor who can slot them over from anywhere. 28-22 to the Baby Blues!
I think the Blues will emerge confident following their first-up win last week, but will find the Crusaders too organised on defence and too tactically astute to turn that confidence in to early points. The Crusaders will take their opportunities when they arise, and while it might take 60-odd minutes to subdue their opponents they will eventually wear them down, and quite possibly cut loose in the final minutes. Crusaders, 31-15