Dan Carter's all-round brilliance will secure a win this Saturday and edge the Crusaders closer to the Kiwi conference title, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Last week, Carter made his return to Vodacom Super Rugby after a six-month sabbatical. His impact, from the bench, was limited, and the Crusaders went down 16-9 to the Hurricanes.
The Crusaders will be expecting more from the All Blacks playmaker when he starts against the Blues in Christchurch. Carter brings experience and stability to the No 12 position, and will ensure that the Crusaders win the territorial battle. That brilliant left boot will also be used to translate early opportunities into points.
Carter should also make a difference to the Crusaders' attack. He is not starting in his favourite position of No 10, but will still ask questions of the Blues defence from No 12.
Earlier this season, the Blues beat the Crusaders 35-24 in Auckland. The Blues are coming off a particularly convincing performance against the Force, in which they scored six tries and romped to a 40-14 victory.
But the Blues may struggle against a Crusaders side who are playing at home and desperate for a victory. The Cantabrians need to keep winning if they are to clinch the New Zealand conference title, and home advantage in the first round of the play-offs.
With Carter in tow, it's likely the Crusaders will realise both of these objectives.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played: 24, Crusaders 13, Blues 11
In Christchurch: Crusaders 8, Blues 3
CARTER'S STATS THAT MATTER
1,442 – The number of points he has scored in Test rugby (Rank 1)
1,547 – The number of points he has scored in Super Rugby (Rank 1)
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sam Prattley, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Peter Saili, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Francis Saili, 23 George Moala.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images