The Crusaders begin their defence of the Super Rugby title with a potentially awkward task away to the Blues at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday.
Blues v Crusaders, Saturday 16th February, Auckland, KO 08:35 (South African time)
Referee: Nick Briant
ARs: Federico Anselmi, Dan Waenga
TMO: Ben Skeen
The Blues finished with the New Zealand Conference wooden spoon again in the regular 2018 season with a record of 4 wins and 12 defeats and their log points tally of 22 was half the number of the fourth placed Highlanders.
They won just the 1 home game and that came in Round 17 when they beat the Reds 39-18. In terms of New Zealand derby matches last season the Blues lost all 8 against local rivals and the average margin of defeat in the 4 home games was 13 points (32 to 19). Going back further the Blues drew with the Chiefs in Auckland in 2017 and their sole derby win in 2016 came at home to the Highlanders in the first round.
Leon MacDonald will coach the Blues this season and although pre-season saw New Zealand’s All Blacks sit out, the Blues will be encouraged by wins over the Chiefs (43-10) and then the Hurricanes (38-31).
The Crusaders won 14 and lost 2 of their regular season matches on their way to topping the log with 12 points worth of daylight over the Hurricanes. In the play offs they hammered the Sharks and then saw off the Canes in the semi finals before finishing the job in a home final against the Lions. They now start their bid for a third successive title.
The Saders 2 defeats in 2018 came in Rounds 4 and 5 in NZ derby matches away to the Hurricanes and the Highlanders and they were foot perfect from there onwards.
In their most recent pre-season outing the Crusaders beat the Highlanders 43-38. Their sizeable All Black contingent was absent from the warm ups, many will be available for this game but they will reportedly be without Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Codie Taylor and Israel Dagg for this fixture.
Super Rugby 2019 Superbru Pool
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Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Substitutes: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Matt Todd (captain), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan
Recent Head to Head (any venue)
2018 Christchurch Crusaders 54-17 Blues (Tries 8-3)
2018 Auckland Blues 24–32 Crusaders (Tries 4-4 )
2017 Christchurch Crusaders 33-24 Blues (Tries 5-3)
2016 Auckland Blues 21–26 Crusaders (Tries 2-2 )
2016 Christchurch Crusaders 28-13 Blues (Tries 3-1)
2015 Auckland Blues 11–34 Crusaders (Tries 1-4 )
2015 Christchurch Crusaders 29–15 Blues (Tries 4-2)
2014 Christchurch Crusaders 21–13 Blues (Tries 2-1)
2014 Auckland Blues 35–24 Crusaders (Tries 4-3 )
2013 Christchurch Crusaders 23–3 Blues (Tries 2-0)
2013 Auckland Blues 34–15 Crusaders (Tries 5-0 )
Watch out for our weekly rugby betting show “The Handicap” which is streamed live on our youtube channel every Thursday night at 21:00
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Note, odds quoted are correct at the time of the last update but are subject to change.
The first show of betting for the Round 1 matches came out some time ago and some shrewd punters including Hanrick, a regular on “The Handicap” our Thursday night (21:00) live streaming show, have been sweet on the Blues chances for some time. The line has been moving accordingly.
I tend to agree that the Blues will be far more competitive this season and although the Crusaders will still field a strong line up, this might not be the worst time to take on the defending champions.
Bet: 3.5 units (1 to 5 scale) Handicap, Blues +8.5 points, 9/10 at Gbets
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