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Nigel Yalden: Who will win - Crusaders or Hurricanes?

Author
Nigel Yalden,
Publish Date
Fri, 27 Jul 2018, 2:08PM
The Crusaders and Hurricanes face each other tomorrow night for a place in the final. (Photo / Getty)
The Crusaders and Hurricanes face each other tomorrow night for a place in the final. (Photo / Getty)

Nigel Yalden: Who will win - Crusaders or Hurricanes?

Author
Nigel Yalden,
Publish Date
Fri, 27 Jul 2018, 2:08PM

The two remaining New Zealand franchises do battle tomorrow night in the first of the Super Rugby semi-finals.  Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has gone through the two teams, man by man, position by position, looking to see who has the advantage when the Crusaders face the Hurricanes at AMI Stadium

FRONT ROW

  1. Joe Moody vs 3. Jeff Toomaga-Allen – EVEN

Since returning from a long term injury in May, Joe Moody has only played three games due to a combination of suspension and further injury, while JTA has been toiling away nicely all season and has scrummaged consistently since returning from All Blacks duty.

  1. Codie Taylor vs Ricky Riccitelli – CRUSADERS

Taylor has been playing the like the best hooker in the country, while Riccitelli continues to work his butt off for his team week in week out.  I give Taylor the edge but not by as big a margin as you’d think

  1. Owen Franks vs 1. Toby Smith – CRUSADERS

Aside from an avoidable two week suspension, Franks has been outstanding since his return to rugby following Achilles surgery in late August last year.  He’s bringing serious heat at scrum time, defending brilliantly (31 tackles made & just one missed) and cleaning out effectively.  Smith has been solid all year but is going to have to find another gear especially at set piece

Collectively – CRUSADERS

That’s the All Blacks first choice front row the Crusaders run out tomorrow night and have earned the right to be favoured in this battle within the battle

 

SECOND ROW

  1. Scott Barrett vs Michael Fatialofa – CRUSADERS

These are two industrious, combative and skilful locks forwards who don’t mind rolling the sleeves up but also have the athleticism to contribute in the opening field.  Fatialofa was massive last week against the Chiefs, but Barrett is in career best form at present

  1. Sam Whitelock vs Sam Lousi – CRUSADERS

Lousi has been a much underappreciated contributor to the Canes season & one of the most improved players in Super Rugby but Whitelock is one of the best locks in world rugby at present and is continuing to get better, not only in his position but also as a captain

Collectively – CRUSADERS

Whitelock and Barrett are the best second row combination in Super Rugby

LOOSE FORWARDS

  1. Jordan Taufua vs Brad Shields – EVEN

They contribute in contrasting ways, but very hard to separate these two fine players.  Taufua punishes you with his ball carriers and tackling, while Shield grinds away at you relentless over the entirety of the game and is rarely far from the ball

  1. Matt Todd vs Gareth Evans – CRUSADERS

But not by as much as you’d think.  Evans can match Todd around the field so I expect both will be on or around the ball simultaneously.  However, whereas Evans tends to go for everything at the breakdown, Todd is one of the best at picking the right moment to go in and affect a turnover – KEY FORWARD BATTLE OF THE GAME

  1. Kieran Read vs Blade Thomson – EVEN

Read has looked good in his return and will only get better, but Thomson, a little bit like Sam Lousi, doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  His recent play has been great and, like Read, is a massive assets come lineout time.

Collectively – CRUSADERS

The Crusaders combination have plenty of games worth of experience together and that kind of experience is 9 carat gold in most situations, but jumps up to 18 carat in playoff games

FORWARD PACK

Crusaders vs Hurricanes – CRUSADERS

Of the seven All Blacks in the Crusaders pack (Jordan Taufua is yet to play for the ABs) the player with the least amount of international experience is Matt Todd … just think about that for a minute.  The Hurricanes pack was tremendous last week and while they will need to go to another level just to match a forward unit that is well drilled in every aspect of their individual and collective roles

INSIDE BACKS

  1. Bryn Hall vs TJ Perenara - HURRICANES

As much as I love the way Hall is playing at the moment, Perenara is the better halfback and showed that last week when he stopped trying to referee the game and started playing it

  1. Richie Mo’unga vs Beauden Barrett – EVEN

Yes, you are reading that right.  I have the back-to-back World Rugby Player of the Year even with a bloke who’s played twelve minutes of test match rugby total.  However Mo’unga form has been outstanding since returning from a fractured jaw, while Barrett hasn’t played badly, just not with the level of dominance and control you’d expect from a back-to-back World Rugby Player of the Year; Barrett the more reliable goal kicker of the two

Collectively – EVEN

The Canes duo have more playing time together but the Crusaders combo have clicked delightfully since Hall earned the starting spot ahead of Mitchell Drummond; both are Super Rugby title winning nine/ten combinations (TJP/Barrett in 2016, Hall/Mo’unga last season) and both complement each other nicely within their teams playing structure. 

MIDFIELD BACKS

  1. Ryan Crotty vs Ngani Laumape - EVEN

Some will say this is brain versus brawn.  That’s insulting to both individuals.  Yes Crotty reads the game better than most; however he is also a double tough wee critter, while Laumape’s ability to bulldoze defenders has overshadowed the steady improvements he’s made in terms over decision making over the last two seasons.  Whoever contains who goes a long way to help decide the outcome of this game - KEY BACK BATTLE OF THE GAME

  1. Jack Goodhue vs Jordie Barrett - CRUSADERS

Goodhue is the more consistent of the two, though Barrett is far more creative from an attacking sense

Collectively - CRUSADERS

Crotty and Goodhue have been working well together for a couple of season now while the Laumape/Barrett combination is still in its infancy

BACK THREE

  1. George Bridge vs 14 Julian Savea – CRUSADERS

Speed and defence is the advantage that Bridge has over Savea and you can expect the Crusaders to try & work plays to exploit that.  Savea has been such a work horse for the Hurricanes this year and will look to use his bulk against the slighter built Bridge if opportunity arises

14 Seta Tamanivalu vs 11 Ben Lam – EVEN

These men are big, fast, physical wingers who can run around or through you.  Lam looked more like February to mid-May Ben Lam against the Chiefs last week, while Tamanivalu has produced arguably his most consistent season in Super Rugby this year

15 David Havili vs Nehe Milner-Skudder – HURRICANES

The opportunities have been limited but I really like what NMS has been doing for his team with those chances and given the way the Crusaders defend, it’s hard to break the line clean but a good stepper has a better chance than most.  Havili has been solid though not as impactful as last year; IMO his best game was at second five against the Chiefs

Collectively – EVEN

Two very good back three units with the skills to make the most of even the tiniest of chances

BACKLINE

Crusaders vs Hurricanes – EVEN

There is talent, smarts, speed and toughness to burn in both these backlines.  The Crusaders have the better collective and cohesive form, though the Hurricanes look more like their old, fun selves in the second half last week. 

RESERVES

  1. Andrew Makalio vs James O’Reilly – CRUSADERS

Makalio has recent game time while O’Reilly is unlikely to be sighted in this game

  1. Tim Perry vs. Chris Eves – CRUSADERS

Perry is keeping Wyatt Crockett out of the squad for heaven sake

  1. Michael Alaalatoa vs Ben May – CRUSADERS

Alaalatoa the better scrummager of the two, both provide plenty around the field

  1. Luke Romano vs. Vaea Fifita – HURRICANES

Both are tough hombres, but Fifita’s athleticism could be a game changer/decider

  1. Pete Samu vs Savea/Princep – HURRICANES/EVEN

If Savea plays, he’s brings a dynamism that, like Fifita, can impact the direction of the contest. If Princep is on the bench, he and Samu bring similar physical attributes

  1. Mitchell Drummond vs James Booth – CRUSADERS

Despite being passed by Hall in the internal battle, Drummond is a quality performer at this level and should see game time unlike Booth given the Canes starting halfback is

  1. Mitchell Hunt vs Ihaia West – EVEN

Both men for a big moment late in a tight game

  1. Braydon Ennor vs Wes Goosen – HURRICANES

Goosen’s all-round solidity and extra experience edges a very talented young player

Collectively – EVEN

Crusaders have experience and continuity, particularly in the tight five and inside backs while the Hurricanes have slight more impact/game changing type players

 ** Coverage of the Crusaders vs Hurricanes begins at 7.05pm on Radio Sport & iHeartRadio with commentary from Brian Ashby, Corey Flynn and Lesley Murdoch at 7.35pm **

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