• Preview: Crusaders vs Hurricanes

    Both teams in Christchurch will desperate for points in the first match of round seven.

    The Hurricanes have scored 91 points in their last two outings while the Crusaders have amassed only 73 in all four of their games, so this match will see two styles collide. The question is, though, will the home pack do the necessary damage as defence ekes out a win?

    It has been a long time, possibly the first ever, since we did not know which Crusaders side would turn up for a match but that is where things stand presently after two defeats in their opening four games. All four of those clashes have seen the winner prevail by 11 points or less, with their biggest defeat coming against the attacking potency of the Blues, before they edged out the Stormers and Rebels in recent weeks.

    Whether they have turned the corner is difficult to assess and while many will say the Chiefs were fortunate to win by eight in that opening match – a long-range intercept for replacement James Lowe ultimately sealing the victory – the seven-time Super Rugby champions don't look the force they once were.

    That issue has subsequently seen Blackadder change things up in his backline as three players have worn the No 10 jersey in their opening games, with Colin Slade retained this week following the bye. He continues alongside Andy Ellis in what is an unchanged backline from the Rebels match. In fact there is just one alteration to the 23 as loosehead prop Daniel Lienert-Brown comes in for Tim Perry, who is nursing a hamstring strain, on the bench.

    As mentioned, their opponents this week enter this match on the back of improved performances which saw them thrash the Cheetahs 60-27 at home before going down 35-31 away to the Highlanders. Unlike the Crusaders, they have had no such trouble scoring tries but as always, their underbelly is a concern so the spotlight will again focus on how they front up.

    The last time these two outfits met in Christchurch was in June last year as the Crusaders won 25-17, but that was a backline that included the likes of Dan Carter, Tom Marshall and Zac Guildford. The loss of Marshall's underrated work has been a bigger blow than possibly expected while Johnny McNicholl has not yet blossomed into the wing many were expecting, with All Black fullback Israel Dagg also out of form.

    Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
    Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Kieran Fonotia, 23 Nemani Nadolo.

    Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
    Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Chris Eves, 18 John Schwalger, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Marty Banks.

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    Photo: Simon Watts/Getty Images

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    Simon Borchardt