The Runner Sports

Crusaders Must Fight Off Lions For The Top Of Super Rugby

The Crusaders have been unstoppable this season. Although the Crusaders made a start relying on late comebacks, they’ve managed to maintain a perfect record. Kieran Read has been exceptional leading the Crusaders through this season. It has been a very difficult season throughout due to many of their top players being injured. Israel Dagg was injured early in the season, and barely made it back in time to be called up for the All Blacks. Richie Mo’unga was also out for a sizable portion of the year with injury. The Crusaders have managed to overcome all of that and remain perfect.

That record and legacy will be tested this weekend by the Hurricanes. Last year’s Super Rugby champions will be a difficult hurdle for the Crusaders to overcome. The Hurricanes feature four of the back six that started for the All Blacks against the British and Irish Lions in the third test. Beauden Barrett is being hailed continuously as the world’s greatest rugby player. The backs are dangerous from 9-15. The Crusaders have proven they have the ability to overcome long odds this season.

How the Crusaders can win

The key for the Crusaders in the match is their forward pack. Kieran Read and the front eight have been powerful all season long. They are a large strong pack with some powerful ball carrying from the likes of Jordan Taufua. While they do not have the pedigree in the backs of the Hurricanes, Israel Dagg and Seta Tamanivalu are still incredible runners.

The 9-10 combination is well coupled in Bryn Hall and Richie Mo’unga. Also, if Mo’unga comes off the field, the Hurricanes still are not safe. Mitchell Hunt is a man to be feared as well, as the Highlanders found out earlier in the season.

The climb for the Crusaders to finish top of the table is steep, but not impossible. Should they fall though, the South African Lions will be right there in the wings to snatch the spot from them.

The Lions look to steal the top spot in the final week

The Lions have made a massive improvement this season; this over an already impressive season last year. Last season the Lions lost to the Hurricanes in the finals 20-3. To make it there, they topped not just one, but two New Zealand teams in the playoffs, including this year’s leading Crusaders. There have been some concerns about the Lions’ record based on the fact that they did not play any New Zealand teams during this season. This is part of what is exciting about knockout rugby in a large league like Super Rugby.

The Lions can battle with the best the world offers. Elton Jantjies is an absolute class player and has only improved since becoming the top Springboks fly half. What the Lions’ backline misses in size they make up for in speed. Courtnall Skosan is inappropriately fast for the world of 15s. He will cause absolute destruction for whatever defense he is up against. The Lions have a high-flying, fast pace that can be very difficult to match, especially when playing in Johannesburg. That is why a win for the Lions and a loss by the Crusaders is so important this weekend.

Lions will not have an easy path on the road against the Sharks

The Sharks are the best non-New Zealand team that is not leading their conference. They are likely to be the only non-New Zealand team to pick up one of the extra playoff spots this year. The Sharks could pose a definite problem to the Lions on the road this weekend. In April, the Lions were only able to beat the Sharks by 5 at home. This does not bode well for a team that is about to play them on the road.

 

This season has been a difficult one for most of Super Rugby. The announcement earlier in the season by SANZAR that three teams would be cut was difficult for many of the teams involved. Australia’s irrelevance in Super Rugby, as well as impending legal battles between the teams and the ARU over who will be cut, has made it a difficult time for Australia. This weekend, though, may give rugby fans the best battle for someone who may be able to beat New Zealand.

If The Lions can manage to secure a home final for this year’s tournament by finishing at the top of the table, there is a good chance that they could challenge the Crusaders for the title this year.

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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