Preview: Crusaders v Reds

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Thursday, May 7, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday 8 May at 7.35pm
AMI Stadium (Addington), Christchurch

Played: 21, 1996-2014 (DNP 2012)
Crusaders wins: 15
Reds wins: 6

Crusaders points: 628
Reds points: 468

Last match: Crusaders 57 Reds 29, 11.05.14 in Brisbane

Tickets available here.

Round 13 teams:

Form: Usually around this time the seven-time champions are beginning to make a bit of noise, but with four losses from their last six matches, things are beginning to get a little tight if the Crusaders are to qualify for their fourteenth straight Super Rugby Finals Series.

There is nothing apparently wrong with the red and black attack, even if they run more metres to achieve their points than any other, they are just one try behind the Hurricanes with 33 while their 295 points scored is better than any other.

While they have won their last three against the Reds, their record over the last six games against the tourists is 3-3, the same ledger the Crusaders have at AMI Stadium this season.

The Reds have already consigned themselves to the fact that they will miss the final’s series for the second straight year, no small part due to the form of the New Zealand Conference - who have supplied three teams to the top six at this stage of the year.

Yet the Crusaders hopes may rest on this match, five competition points behind the sixth placed Waratahs yet they are seven behind the fourth placed Highlanders.

Some history is firmly against the visitors, who have only won just the solitary match in Crusaders territory, and that was back in 1999 when Queensland finished top of the table after the regular season of that campaign’s Super 12.

Key players: The Crusaders have a match day squad that on paper looks as good as any other, and now is the time where the eleven members of the 23-man group who have worn the Black jersey would like to experience a little more domination.

The Reds pack hasn’t set the competition alight but it has been steadily working into the season, however Wyatt Crockett and Nepo Laulala will rate themselves against the arriving front row.

Kieran Read and Matt Todd have been playing second fiddle to the inform Jordan Taufua, but it is the growing form of some backline members that is beginning to be noticed.

Nemani Nadolo was a beacon of activity last week while Dan Carter’s defensive game continues to operate with near perfect efficiency.

However the Reds have a mobile and aggressive back row, with former All Black Adam Thomson joined by fetcher Liam Gill and Jake Schatz – the latter rushed straight back into the starting team despite just returning from a month injury layoff.

Squad update: Coach Todd Blackadder has made three changes to the starting line-up and a new face enters the reserves.

Nepo Laulala will pack down in the front row with Codie Taylor and Wyatt Crockett this week. Alex Hodgman and Joe Moody will provide prop cover from the reserves.

Dominic Bird pairs up with Sam Whitelock at lock, and Nafi Tuitavake will play on the right wing.

In the reserves, Richie McCaw returns from a head knock received in the Blues game and outside back Jone Macilai will play his first Super Rugby game since breaking his arm in the pre-season.

Schatz will make his return, the inclusion of the eightman at the back of the scrum is the only personnel change head coach Richard Graham has made to the starting lineup which lost to the Hurricanes two weeks ago.

Schatz comes into the starting side at the expense of recent debutant Adam Korczyk, with Thomson shifting back to blindside flanker.

The Reds also welcome back Ben Tapuai and Jamie-Jerry Taulagi from injury, with both included in the reserves for tomorrow’s match.

Tapuai missed two matches due to a shoulder injury suffered against the Bulls and Taulagi injured his knee in Round 1 against the Brumbies.

Fans after the match can pay tribute to five special Crusaders and to thank them for their contribution to the team.

Tom Taylor, Colin Slade, Dan Carter and Willi Heinz have all announced that they will be heading offshore after this season, and Richie McCaw has also indicated that it could be his final season, which means it could be the last chance for Christchurch fans to see them in action for the Crusaders. A video tribute to these Crusaders will play on the big screen and this week’s match programme will be a special souvenir edition.