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Super Rugby Semi-Final: Chiefs vs Crusaders Preview

Written by @QuintenLetcher for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!


Chiefs vs Crusaders | Saturday 27 July | Waikato Stadium | 09:35

superrugbysemi1introUncanny enough that you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking at last year’s Super Rugby fixtures, the Crusaders travel to Waikato to take on the Chiefs just as they did in the first semi-final of the 2012 competition exactly a year ago to the date. The Chiefs went on to win that brutal encounter 20-17, and subsequently claimed the 2013 title a week later by brushing aside a tired Sharks outfit. But this year it looks as if things are going be a bit tougher for the home side, with the demonically terrifying Crusaders planning a visit this Saturday. Finishing in pole position this season allows the reigning champs the luxury of home ground advantage for the rest of their campaign, but will that be enough to claim impressive back-to-back Super Rugby titles?

The Crusaders have peaked at the perfect time this year, and if their explosive form of late is anything to go on, there is little doubt regarding their ability to clinch the title for a record eighth time, despite the daunting travel itinerary that would accompany such a feat. Being the lowest ranked of the four semi-finalists, a Crusaders victory in Waikato means either a trip to Pretoria to face the Bulls or a hop over to Canberra to take on the Brumbies, but it will take more than home ground advantage for either of these sides to put a stop to Todd Blackadder’s wrecking ball. With a notable 43-15 victory over the Chiefs just two weeks back, the Crusaders know they have what it takes to secure a resounding victory in Hamilton this Saturday but the Chiefs are an unpredictable bunch and normal logic disappears when it comes to the knockouts stages.
superrugbysemi1
To Win (80mins)
Chiefs 16/10
Crusaders 5/10
Draw 36/1

Handicaps
Chiefs (+4.5) 9/10
Crusaders (-4.5) 9/10

Chiefs
There are a few concerns for the home side this weekend with Sam Cane, Hika Elliot, Brodie Retallick, Ben Tameifuna and Ben Afeaki all suffering with minor niggles that could prevent them from taking the field this week. The Chiefs are already without the services of Tim Nanai-Williams and Richard Kahui so the loss of any more players heading into this humdinger of a match would be crippling for the home side. Once again we get to see Aaron Cruden go toe-to-toe with the man he wishes to usurp, Dan Carter.  Another interesting battle that could arise this Saturday will be at the back, depending on final selections I expect to see some fierce competition between Robbie Robinson and the resourceful Israel Dagg.

Crusaders
Todd Blackadder has decided against throwing Richie McCaw into the starting lineup for this weekend’s colossal Kiwi semi final, deciding instead to reward the current loose-trio of George Whitelock, Kieran Read and Matt Todd for their outstanding contributions throughout the season, retaining them in the run on side this Saturday. With Robbie Fruean being the only big name absent for the final stages of the competition, the Crusaders are going to be about as potent a side as you get at this level of rugby. With their effectively aggressive backline of Carter, Dagg, Guilford and Co. difficult to contain at the best of times, and a forward pack that combines physicality with ingenuity using set pieces to dominate the game, the Crusaders have a very real shot at claiming their first Super Rugby title since 2008.

VERDICT: Crusaders (-4.5) 9/10
Very different backlines, the Crusaders physical, the Chiefs explosive, which most likely means the game will go to the side that is most effective in containing their opponent’s scoring opportunities. This will be determined by which side controls the game up front, securing quick clean ball to their backs. I think the Crusaders are going to dominate this from the kickoff, but the Chiefs won’t be going down without a fight. The Crusaders by 7.

Think we’ve got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.

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