Heinrich Brüssow will have to be at his ball-pilfering best if the Cheetahs are to get anything out of their trip to Christchurch, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Brüssow showed in his 30-minute cameo against the Sharks that he remains one of the best fetchers in world rugby. In the face of a physically dominant pack, he managed to stem the tide and win a number of crucial turnovers.
Current coaching philosophies would have you believe that, as a specialist openside, he is something of a luxury in a team languishing near the foot of the combined Vodacom Super Rugby table, but his value to the Cheetahs' cause cannot be underestimated.
The Cheetahs, for all the off-season work on their defence, still have one of the worst records around. Brüssow's ability to disrupt opposition ball will allow for them to set themselves better in the face of the expected Crusaders onslaught, while any turnover ball can be willfully exploited either through the probing boot of Joe Pietersen or the mercurial abilities of Willie le Roux.
The Crusaders have made four changes for this one – most notably in their decision to rest All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Matt Todd will assume the openside role in his absence, although the Crusaders will miss McCaw's guile at the breakdown. Elsewhere, Israel Dagg returns at fullback and Kieron Fonotia replaces Johnny McNicholl on the wing.
Apart from the inclusion of Brüssow, the Cheetahs will also welcome back Pietersen at flyhalf. His tactical kicking was instrumental in the away win over the Sharks, and his ability to push and probe with the boot will be a key aspect in Saturday's match.
As will the battle in the scrums, where the Lions came under massive pressure last weekend, especially on the tighthead side. Coenie Oosthuizen has answered every question asked of him so far this season, but Wyatt Crockett will prove another tough examination of his progress.
The Cheetahs have never won in Christchurch, with the 28-21 defeat in 2012 the closest they've come. That won't change on Saturday, especially if they play like they did against the Sharks.
Next week they'll face the Chiefs, before heading to Australia for matches against the Brumbies and Force. It's imperative that they take something out of this match, even if it's just a moral victory.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Crusaders, 7 Cheetahs 2
In Christchurch: Crusaders 4, Cheetahs 0
STATS AND FACTS
– The Crusaders have won five of their last six at home, with four of those wins coming by more than 20 points.
– In contrast, the Cheetahs have lost 10 of their last 11 games away from home, including the last five outside of South Africa, averaging 39 points conceded per game during those five matches.
– The Crusaders have conceded more tries (nine) than they have scored (eight) so far this season, however, at home they have scored five tries and conceded just two.
– The Crusaders have beaten the fewest defenders on average this year. They have evaded just 11.8 would-be tacklers per game.
– The Cheetahs have conceded 29.8 points and three tries per game on average this season; no team has averaged more in 2015.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Crusaders||Colin Slade (27)||Andy Ellis (2)||Robbie Freuan (188)||Matt Todd (43)|
|Cheetahs||Joe Pietersen (33)||Boom Prinsloo, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Venter (2)||Sarel Pretorius (124)||Teboho Mohoje (40)|
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 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 David Havili.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images