The Crusaders come off of their bye in the knowledge that they are the last undefeated Kiwi side in the competition, but also that they should be wary of underestimating this Sunwolves side.
We preview Friday's solitary Super Rugby fixture which sees the Crusaders take on the Sunwolves at AMI Stadium.
Crusaders v Sunwolves | Friday 14 April | AMI Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders N/A | Draw 45/1 | Sunwolves 22/1
Crusaders (-38.5) 9/10 | Sunwolves (+38.5) 9/10
The Stormers’ superb win over the Chiefs in Round 8 means that Sam Whitelock’s Crusaders are the only unbeaten NZ side left in 2017. They currently sit atop the Australasian pile on 26 points, two above the Chiefs and Hurricanes. Their win over the Waratahs a fortnight ago may have been emphatic on the scoreboard, but they will feel that there is still plenty to work on in all. A host of handling errors, as well as some poor decision-making, allowed their opponents to exploit their defence on more than a couple of occasions, and Scott Robertson will be wary of allowing this to happen against sides with the attacking prowess of the likes of the Lions and Hurricanes.
This week’s encounter against the Sunwolves would ordinarily sneak under the radar, however, after the ‘Wolves’ stupendous win over the 'TerriBulls' in Tokyo last weekend, there may just be a little more attention given to this fixture.
The Canterbarians may be tempted to play slightly loosely on Friday, but they will need to stick to their structures until they are certain that the game is won before tossing the ball around. The platform starts up front, and their forwards will need to physically impose themselves on their Japanese counterparts (something that the Bulls failed so miserably to do), and knock them back in the collisions from the get-go. Do this, and they should come away with a comfortable win in Christchurch.
Wow! What a way to claim your first victory over an SA side. The Sunwolves were fantastic in their 21-20 win over the Bulls last week, and the tenacity and courage they showed on defence was more than just a little inspiring. They played to win, and their intensity, physicality and pace was too much for Nollis Marais’ lacklustre Pretoria Boys. Hats off to coach Filo Tiatia and his team – their elation at the final whistle showed just how much that result meant to them.
As significant as last week’s win was, Ed Quirk’s men will know that they are a very long way from the comforts of Tokyo this Friday (8 426 km to be exact), and that the AMI Stadium is a very difficult place to go.
The Sunwolves will employ similar tactics as they did against the Bulls, where an emphasis on winning the collisions and their set-pieces will reign supreme, however it may be a tough ask for them to make another huge step-up and claim another unlikely win in successive weeks.
Verdict: Crusaders (-38.5) 9/10
This ‘Saders team looks the real deal and should power their way to a big win.