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PREVIEW: Chiefs v Crusaders

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Friday, June 1, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images


Match details:
Chiefs v Crusaders, 7.35pm Saturday 2 June, FMG Stadium Waikato. TICKETS.

Played: 32
Won: Crusaders 19, Chiefs 13
Last time: Crusaders 45, Chiefs 23 (24 February 2018)

FORM

Considering all of their injury woes, the Chiefs will be happy to sit at third on the New Zealand Conference on 37 points. The last two rounds they have shown their danger right until the final minute with last gasp tries in both matches securing crucial bonus points. The Crusaders juggernaut has kicked into full steam with nine straight wins including an impressive 24-13 victory over the Hurricanes last week.
KEY BATTLE
There will be no more defining match-up than at first five-eighth where Richie Mo’unga lines up against Damian McKenzie. Both players have been named in the All Blacks squad for the three Test series against France and are battling against each other for a spot in the All Blacks match-day 23. Damian McKenzie has been a key performer for the Chiefs this year, racking up 129 points from his 11 appearances while Richie Mo’unga has looked strong since returning from a broken jaw. Mo’unga was brilliant against the Hurricanes last week in marshalling his side perfectly around the park while Damian McKenzie scored a stunning try late in the game against the Waratahs to show his danger with ball in hand.

SENSATIONAL SOLOMON
This could be the type of game where a moment of individual brilliance makes all the difference. While both teams have plenty of game-breakers sprinkled throughout their side, Solomon Alaimalo is one player that has really captured the imagination of Chiefs fans this year. The dynamic 22-year-old fullback tops the competition in metres made (1043), carries (133) and has beaten an impressive 47 defenders to position himself as one of the most dangerous attacking runners in Super Rugby. His clash with 2017 All Black David Havili at fullback will be an individual battle to savour.

THE SCOOP
The under-manned Chiefs have continued to surprise this year and will need their biggest effort yet if they are to edge the Crusaders. The Crusaders have plenty to play for with a victory meaning they will be hard to catch at the top of the NZ Conference.

FAST FACT
Richie Mo’unga has won 18 of his last 19 Investec Super Rugby games, including the last five in a row against New Zealand opposition.

TEAMS
Chiefs:
Solomon Alaimalo, Toni Pulu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai (co-c), Sean Wainui, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber, Liam Messam, Mitch Karpik, Luke Jacobson, Michael Allardice, Brodie Retallick, Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Harris, Karl Tu'inukuafe. Reserves: Liam Polwart, Sam Prattley, Jeff Thwaites, Jesse Parete, Sam Cane (co-c), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Shaun Stevenson.

Crusaders: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd (captain), Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Quinten Strange, Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Wyatt Crockett, Donald Brighouse, Luke Romano, Ethan Blackadder, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Jone Macilai.