Preview - Crusaders v Waratahs - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Preview – Crusaders v Waratahs

Israel Folau - is set for his biggest challenge yet at outside centre against the Crusaders
Preview – Crusaders v Waratahs

The current leaders of the New Zealand and Australian Conferences square off in Christchurch on Friday in a match with potentially dire consequences for the loser.

As it stands

Not only did the Crusaders’ loss last week end an eight-match winning streak, but it also denied them an opportunity to put a break on the Chiefs, and allowed the Highlanders to draw level. With the Hurricanes just a point further back, whichever of that group loses next will find it tough to catch up, much less secure top ranking.

The Waratahs, meanwhile, find themselves just a point ahead of the Brumbies (but six adrift of the Hurricanes) and probably needing four wins to ensure qualification for the quarter-finals. With the Chiefs up next, and Hurricanes and Blues in the last two weeks of the regular season, a win on Friday would be a huge boost to their prospects. A loss, while not fatal to those prospects, will likely make every remaining match a must-win.

 Joe Moody – probably the best loose head prop in New Zealand now

Set piece and breakdown

The Crusaders scrum and lineout continue to impress. Joe Moody is now probably the best loose head prop in New Zealand, and Scott Barrett is emerging as a quality lock with a big future. Throw their other All Blacks Crockett, Franks, Taylor, Romano, Whitelock and Read, and AB prospects Barrett and Taufua into the mix and there’s no doubt their pack is the Crusaders’ strength.

The Waratahs are no slouches up front, either, with scrum and lineout success percentages not that far behind those of their hosts. If there’s a criticism it’s that some of the big units don’t always seem to do a lot of what big units are meant to do around the park. It also has to be said that both Polota-Nau and Palu look past their best, as starters at least, although Palu did have his best game in some time against the Bulls last week.

Halves and midfield

Pre-season I wrote that Richie Mo’unga had to really step up for the Crusaders in the 10 jersey, and that the midfield was worryingly thin without Crotty and Fruean.

After looking somewhat lost at first, Mo’unga now looks like he may yet live up to the wraps he’s had on him since high school. The midfield, though, continues to be a concern. Last week Faddes of the Highlanders joined the list of players to tear it apart multiple times; Israel Folau simply can’t be allowed to do the same.

Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley continue to be Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley, and divide opinion accordingly, but the Waratahs do look a far more purposeful and threatening outfit with them at 9 and 10, and to fall away somewhat when they’re not.

The loss of Kurtley Beale is obviously a huge blow for the Waratahs – at times this year he’s looked like he’s worth his alleged Wasps salary – and his absence will no doubt force a rethink of how and where the Tahs choose to attack.

 Israel Dagg – in top-notch form

Back three

One of the more pleasing things about 2016 from a Crusaders’ point of view has been the return from injury of Israel Dagg, who has quickly re-established himself as a top-notch 15. They will again be without Nemani Nadolo (this being week four of his four week ban), but Jone Macilai and the sometimes-maligned Johnny McNicholl have done well enough in his absence.

Andrew Kellaway looks a player of the future and in Matt Carraro, Rob Horne and Reece Robinson the Tahs have some handy wing options, although none appeals as a game-breaker.

Why should I bother?

Read the opening again.  The result of this game could end the season for one team and start favouritism for the other to win their conference.

It will be packed with drama – don’t miss it.


The ‘Waratahs will take some putting away, but I think the Crusaders will take this one.

Crusaders by 10

 Jed Holloway – fit enough to play


Teams & details

The Crusaders have made two changes: Joe Moody replaces Wyatt Crockett at loose head prop, and Ryan Crotty starts instead David Havili at second-five.  This looks more like a rotation than punishment for the last-up loss. Andy Ellis, who midweek announced he won’t be back in 2017, becomes just the third Crusader after Corey Flynn and Crockett to bring up 150 appearances.

The Waratahs have replaced Kurtley Beale with David Horwitz in the run-on team, as expected, and winger Zac Guildford, back from injury, will take his place in the reserves.  No. 8 Jed Holloway is also fit enough to play and will start instead of Wycliff Palu, who will be on the bench instead of Ned Hanigan.


1. Wyatt Crockett
2. Codie Taylor
3. Owen Franks
4. Luke Romano
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Jordan Taufua
7. Matt Todd
8. Kieran Read (c)
9. Andy Ellis
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. Jone Macilai
12. Ryan Crotty
13. Kieron Fonotia
14. Johnny McNicholl
15. Israel Dagg

16. Ged Robinson
17. Wyatt Crockett
18. Mike Ala’alatoa
19. Scott Barrett
20. Tim Boys
21. Mitchell Drummond
22. David Havili
23. Marty McKenzie


1. Paddy Ryan
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau
3. Tom Robertson
4. Dave Dennis
5. Will Skelton
6. Dean Mumm
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Jed Holloway
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Rob Horne
12. David Horwitz
13. Israel Folau
14. Reece Robinson
15. Andrew Kellaway

16. Angus Ta’avao
17. Hugh Roach
18. Jeremy Tilse
19. Sam Lousi
20. Wycliff Palu
21. Matt Lucas
22. Matt Carraro
23. Zac Guildford


Date: Friday, May 14

Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Kick-off: 17.35 AEST

Referee: Jaco Peyper

Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden, Kane McBride

TMO: Chris Wratt


  • Lee Grant

    An excellent preview Brent.

    I don’t think any Tahs’ fan under-estimates the Crusaders, especially playing at home but their loss against the Clan last week revealed a chink of vulnerability.

    It’s a shame for Tahs’ fans to lose Beale – with Phipps and Hooper, our best player this season.

    I wonder if any other team has lost a player this year whose injury affected the performance of their team as much as we think Beale’s will affect the Tahs.

    Maybe a lot but none comes to mind after a couple of reds.

    • Kokonutcreme

      Last year the Chiefs lost Cruden to a serious knee injury and never recovered, rotating Andrew Horrell, and the McKenzie brothers in the 10 jersey.

      Agree that the injury to Beale has robbed the Tahs of many of their attacking structures off his ability to step in as another first receiver as well as his ability on defence in controlling the high ball and launching counter attacks. He was building a nice combination in the midfield with Folau that also provided Cheika with more options for the Wallabies.

      While Tahs fans aren’t underestimating the Crusaders, Saders fans shouldn’t be writing off the Tahs chances as a foregone conclusion either. The Tahs have shown an annoying ability in the past couple of years to lift in key trans-tasman clashes and surprise their opponents.

      Both sides share similar strengths and weaknesses.

    • McWarren

      Maybe Kerevi for the Reds but you might be right, Kurtley has been good all year where as Samu was just coming to life. Actually Pocock for the ponies was a big loss, mentally more than anything else.
      This game scares me for the tahs. Its not often the saders lose two in a row. More often then not they come out pissed off and put in a blinder after a loss.
      Lets hope the Tahs go all 2014 on them.

  • Seriously, Polota-Nau past his best? Maybe, slightly, but not to the point where you’d be dropping him for anyone but another international hooker.

    • waiopehu oldboy

      I’m not suggesting he’s dead weight but I do think the injuries are starting to catch up with him, esp the self inflicted ones c/- his kamikaze tackling……..

      My gut feeling was that he’s not doing AS much this year & if you compare his numbers to the other top hookers out there (e.g. Moore, Coles, Taylor, Strauss) they’re not that flash.

      • MM

        Is that the same TPN who came on at the end of the Stormers game and led the scrum to a crushing tighthead that won them the game? Perhaps he’s modifying his game so that he doesn’t make any more of those stupid tackle attempts. Moore, TPN, Ready would my current pecking order.

  • Moose

    Looking forward to this one, and dreading it somewhat. #Believe2106!

  • jamie

    Good preview, but stiff on Taf. Should’ve knocked squeak out of the starting XV at the RWC, had sweak not been captain. (Rebels fan, and definitely not a fan of Tahs big bopper policy)

  • Seb V

    I thought Holloway was injured?

    • Braveheart81

      He was. He was expected to miss three weeks but ultimately only missed two.

  • Muzz

    how does Reece Robinson continue to get picked in the starting team? ive seen nothing to suggest that he deserves a spot ahead of Carraro, Guildford or Harry Jones. At least we know that these players are quality finishers (Jones outstanding in NRC). Robinson is ineffective, he never seems to beat defenders one on one, often loses the ball in contact and is constantly doing shit little kicks when he should be holding on to the ball.

    But he used to play rugby league so he must be good.

    Am I missing something here?

    • Tomthusiasm

      I just heard today that Guildford broke his toe in round six, he’s only just coming back via club rugby.

  • Spank

    Just watched the game and thought the second half was excellent. In fact I think the Warathas dominated it but – AS USUAL – Australian teams (Warathas no exception) make mistakes within 5 metres of the try line and NZ teams don’t!! We had one 14 point turn around and the Warathas missing a try by 10 cm (if that) on another occasion. Game could have been 22 or 24 with fairness to both. Warathas scrum held up well and looked really strong once the replacements came on. Falao also looked good (mostly) and Foley I thought. Plus the front row.

NSW Waratahs

a.k.a. Waiopehu Oldboy.

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