The Crusaders 28-13 win over the Bulls in Christchurch on Saturday night sets up a huge Kiwi derby, with the seven-time champions (the fourth placed wildcard qualifiers) travelling north to Hamilton to take on the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium in the Super Rugby Semi-Finals tomorrow night.
The Chiefs, second place finishers overall on the table and New Zealand Conference champions, had a break during the first week of the Super Rugby Finals Series, and will look to prove their status as the new top dogs in NZ rugby as the competition’s benchmark team arrives in town.
The Crusaders, beaten finalists last year and seven-time winners, have remained by-and-large the best franchise in New Zealand since 1998, but if one team looks capable of taking over that mantle, it is the Chiefs.
The Chiefs will be confident with home comforts, having established a franchise record six straight wins at Waikato Stadium this season, while setting a new New Zealand record for most wins achieved (with 12) during the regular season.
Yet the Crusaders ended that run at home at the beginning of the month, continuing their solid form on the road with their fifth win in eight matches away this year.
If the Chiefs are to emerge from the might of the Crusaders, they will need to join the Bulls as the only franchise ever to defeat the red and blacks in a Super Rugby Semi-Final, and overcome a recent record that has just one win for the New Zealand Conference champions over their incoming visitors in their last five matches.
Never has a New Zealand Conference team, with the exception of the Blues in 2003 when they won their third title, stopped the Crusaders during the Super Rugby Finals Series, so if the Chiefs can do the business in front of their home crowd – there will be high hopes for a tickertape parade in Hamilton in the weeks to come.
Friday, 27 July, 2012
Chiefs v Crusaders
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand
Kick off (1935 local, 1935 NZT, 1735 NSW/ACT,0935 SAT, 0735 GMT)
Referee Craig Joubert
AR Jonathan Kaplan
AR Keith Brown
TMO Garratt Williamson
HEAD TO HEAD:
Played 19: Crusaders 14, Chiefs 5
Points aggregate: Chiefs 373, Crusaders 549
Tries aggregate: Chiefs 32, Crusaders 57
Last match: Chiefs 21 – 28 Crusaders @ Waikato Stadium, Hamilton (2012SR, RD17)
Record in Hamilton/Tauranga/Albany – Played 10, Chiefs 3, Crusaders 7
Record in Super Rugby Finals Series – MAIDEN MATCH
Chiefs 2012 Record – Played 16, Won 12, Lost 4
444 PF (4th overall), 358 PA (6th overall), 47 tries (3rd equal overall)
Crusaders 2012 Record – Played 16, Won 11, Lost 5,
485 PF (2nd overall), 342 PA (3rd overall), 47 tries (3rd equal overall)
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sean Maitland.