In the rarified air at the top of the Super Rugby standings, knowing the opposition and ‘applying the pressure’ can lead to a small advantage over your rival. This Friday night #HURvCRU is the match of the week and will be won by getting the little things right.
No matter the competition, small margins can be the difference between success and failure. Be it in attitude, effort or in micro-skills. Add in the challenge of maintaining your place leading Super Rugby, and that indicates how important a Hurricanes v Crusaders match is.
Across all three conferences, most rugby watchers will have an eye on this battle. It might be a barometer of how each of these competing teams are tracking, and/or (depending on where your favourite team is placed) could influence who the biggest target now points toward.
This is it.
Not too early in the season to say 'a lot rides on this one' though…..we can say that about plenty of local derbies across all conferences.
But the winner here can make a break on the other. Is that called a 4-point swing? #sportstalk #HURvCRU
Anyhow, it's Big! pic.twitter.com/hufFSrg6oE
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) March 27, 2019
Both teams have a target on them [naturally]. Champions over the last few seasons, and featuring in some of the most exciting games. Each has eyes on them, and Friday night will be no different.
#HURvCRU – High-pressure Atmosphere
“We hope to apply some pressure, take away their time-and-space,” was the quote from Hurricanes assistant coach Jason Holland, when he spoke to RadioSport this week. Reducing the options for playmakers like Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue isn’t such an easy task though.
Holland, and head coach John Plumtree, both want to avenge the earlier season loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch. That was successive losses, so the trend needs to be overturned. And #HURvCRU play on their home ground brings more fond memories. Multiple victories over the Crusaders in recent seasons is a confidence booster.
Even while plans to ‘apply pressure’ is obvious, fitness and firepower are not in full supply.
— Newshub Sport (@NewshubSport) March 27, 2019
Take out Coles – and not due to any All Black-enforced period – it makes it difficult; however, Ricky Riccitelli is in fine form. Add in substitute Asafo Aumua and few would say that is a reduction in force.
Still, without Gareth Evans and Nehe Milner-Skudder (long term injuries), it has taken away some of the potency which Hurricanes teams have used so effectively. The intuitive play, offensive tackling style which can create loose ball – think Ardie Savea or Vaea Fifita. Those weapons are still there, so ‘Canes fans will hope that the side is at ‘near to’ 100%.
TJ Perenara will face Bryn Hall. Matt Todd (see main picture) fighting in the loose forward-war against Reed Prinsep. Young star David Havili seeing the new challenge from Chase Tiatia – all mouth-watering match-ups.
But it will the visitors who have more motivation to impress.
Defending Champions plan to ‘Hit Back’
To make #HURvCRU that much more intriguing, add some All Blacks. To be precise, the skipper. Kieran Read, 100-plus tests, 133 Super Rugby caps yet, he is short of a gallop. Only just returning from back surgery, so it is not a certainty that Read’s inclusion will spark a heroic return (but he is inspirational).
— ESPN Scrum (@espnscrum) March 27, 2019
it could be the opportune moment. A triumphant return to the winners circle for Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty too. Multiple Super Rugby champs, so used to applying pressure themselves. Those three will want dearly to ‘hit back’ after a limp effort in Sydney last week.
Redemption may occur, although when two forces like this collide, the outcome affects more than just the local derby stakes. It is competition defining; on the edge of the halfway point in the season. The team whom can end this week with 23 or 24 points now, looks to be on track to reach the optimum ‘playoff position’ of comfort.
That target is approximately 47 or more competition points.
So will the strength of numbers be enough to push the Crusaders or the Hurricanes towards their ultimate goal? Appearing in the finals series, giving themselves a chance. By rights, you would assume a New Zealand conference team will be near to the top of the table although, local derby matches like #HURvCRU can really unsettle your final objective.
Hurricanes v Crusaders – Friday March 29. 7:35pm (NZT) Wellington
This match of the week is set to be a nail-biting #HURvCRU encounter. The confrontation between the sides will be monumental, with battles going on in the pack, and right through each backline.
They each know each others game, so if the goal is to ‘apply pressure, and take away time-and-space’ then it will be interesting to see how the Crusaders bounce back; after last week. In either hemisphere, this is always one game to be ready for. It is going to be fantastic.
“main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images