Everyone gets excited for a final replay, and it is no exception for this one. Though there are plenty of difference from the big one last year.
The Crusaders are actually playing in Christchurch again, and they are clearly enjoying it. They have shaken off the shackles of the somewhat traditional early season form and are really starting to hit their straps. The most noticeable, for me, occasion of this was their clinical display against the Stormers. Since they have gone from strength to strength A great example of this is one Dan Carter is unable to claim his preferred 10 jersey, with young Tom Taylor keeping him at 12.
The Reds have also had their early season troubles. Their run of injuries have been well documented, but the way play makers have been falling the champs have had trouble building some continuity. While everyone is careful not to blame injuries, and rightfully so, they impact of so many in one key position is undeniable. The tide is starting to turn though.
Last week Sully spoke about the return of A Faingaa, against the Blues while that might have been the difference (some may argue the singing of the team song after made the biggest difference). This week, Ant not only gets to start the match, but he will have his hair dressing duties reinstated as well. Yep, brother Saia Faingaa is back too. They are also playing another Kiwi team… is that an omen?
Probably not, unfortunately. This crusaders team is not quite the easy beats the Jafa’s from last week were.
The return of Saia helps boost front row stocks, though with the little time Anae has been getting, it is hard to tell how much. One plus will it might give Chibba a rest, not that he has looked like needing it. Anae doesn’t get punted from the squad though, he is retained on the bench. Greg Holmes gets promoted to the starting side due to the injury of Ben Daley (Hamstring).
Also in the forwards Radike Samo, who has managed to raise the required money, for his Fijian village, to save his fro, returns to the 22 with space made due to the injury of Beau Robinson (Fibia). Like his son last week, that might mean the weight is lifted and we will see a classic performance from him. Especially if his try for GPS in Premier Rugby on the weekend is anything to go by.
For the Crusaders, changes to the team that played the Waratahs last week are…
…yep, none. The only blip is Sean Maitland bracketed (at the time of writing) with Adam Whitelock due to a “high” ankle injury. Not what a high ankle is exactly, but rest assured, if he can run, he will play.
Crusaders: 1. Ben Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Tom Donnelly, 6. George Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Kieran Read, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Tom Taylor, 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Dan Carter, 13. Robbie Fruean, 14. Sean Maitland/Adam Whitelock, 15. Israel Dagg Reserves: 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Samuel Whitelock, 19. Richie McCaw, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Ryan Crotty, 22. Tom Marshal
Reds: 1. Greg Holmes, 2. James Hanson, 3. James Slipper, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. James Horwill (c), 6. Jake Schatz, 7. Liam Gill, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Will Genia (vc), 10. Ben Lucas, 11. Digby Ioane, 12. Mike Harris, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 14. Dom Shipperley, 15. Luke Morahan Reserves: 16. Saia Faingaa, 17. Albert Anae, 18. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19. Radike Samo, 20. Eddie Quirk, 21. Nick Frisby, 22. Rod Davies
Kick-off 14:00 AEST, AMI Stadium, Christchurch:
LIVE on FOX Sports 3HD & 3 from 14:00 AEST
LIVE on 612 ABC Brisbane & Coast FM, Grandstand Digital Brisbane and streamed online at www.abc.net.au/grandstand from 13:45 AEST
Be part of the conversation on Twitter using #CRUvRED and make sure you’re following @gagr
Referee: Bryce Lawrence
Assistant Referees: Vinny Munro, Kane McBride
TMO: Matthew Muir
The forward packs will have at it, and with old Brycie back on the whistle (yep, that’s how realistic the final replay will be) it will be interesting to see if Liam Gill will have the street smarts to exploit Bryce’s “Style”. I really think the reds will miss the abrasiveness that Beau brings to the team in this match.
Really though, the title fight has to be the battle of the midfield will be awesome. Will the starch of Ant and Mike be able to hold back the formidable pairing of Carter and Fruean?
The Fearless Prediction
My fearless prediction is that, despite the Crusaders wearing a charity strip for St John’s, the ambulance boys will be kept twiddling their thumbs as it will be injury free for the Reds.
I will however tip the Crusaders to get home, by either 3 or 21 points. I know, but it will either be tight, or a blow out, I can’t see middle ground.