Preview: Crusaders v Stormers

Richie McCaw 1582058003
With the All Blacks available again and the team coming off a good win over the Bulls, the Crusaders won't let the Stormers break their winless run at Christchurch.

VENUE & TIME: Jade Stadium, Christchurch, Saturday March 24, 19:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 11 � Crusaders 7, Western Province/Stormers 3, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: April 29, 2006 (Cape Town) � Stormers 28-17 Crusaders.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Crusaders are in good shape and the Stormers have not added anyone to their injury toll in the last week. For all the talk early in the week that some of his leading players would be rested for this one, Kobus van der Merwe has named a strong side. Conrad Jantjes, Egon Seconds and now Corne Uys are out for the Stormers, which means Breyton Paulse and Jean de Villiers � players named as likely to miss the match - will play. To be blunt this is a good thing for both the match and the competition, since watching the defending champs face weakened sides is not good viewing and smacks of white flags in the opposition camps.

FORM: The Crusaders cleaned the Bulls out last week, winning handily against another top four contender even if their opponents gave the impression that they considered match unwinnable from the day the draw was announced. Robbie Deans is now in the pleasant position of getting his All Blacks back with the team sitting just outside the four. The Stormers won at Sydney but that was against the Waratahs playing badly (add the two together and you get the picture). They won�t get away so easily this weekend.

WHO'S HOT: The Crusaders have the luxury of picking from all the guys who have been playing well and adding Dan Carter, Richie McCaw & Co to that mix. It should make for a formidable side and the only question is over how well the two previously disparate groups will gel. Since they all know each other�s play, we don't think that will be an issue. The Stormers have a real star in Luke Watson � no player could work harder in the team cause than he does � but the quality of the support he gets on a weekly basis from high-calibre players is not always good enough. Andries Bekker has also impressed as a no-nonsense forward in several good displays but starts this match from the bench.

WE THINK: The Crusaders will make ample amends for last year's defeat and will win this one by plenty. Our money would go on a 20-point margin for the home side, especially as Deans put the acid on his All Blacks to be up to speed immediately.

TEAMS:

Crusaders:1 � Wyatt Crockett, 2 � Corey Flynn (captain), 3 � Campbell Johnstone, 4 � Ross Filipo, 5 � Chris Jack, 6 � Reuben Thorne, 7 � Richie McCaw, 8 � Mose Tuiali�i, 9 � Andy Ellis, 10 � Daniel Carter, 11 � Scott Hamilton, 12 � Aaron Mauger, 13 � Casey Laulala, 14 � Rico Gear, 15 � Leon MacDonald.

Reserves: 16 � Ti�i Paulo, 17 �Ben Franks, 18 � Michael Paterson, 19 � Kieran Read, 20 � Kevin Senio, 21 � Stephen Brett, 22 � Johnny Leo�o.

Stormers:1 � JD Moller, 2 � Schalk Brits, 3 � Brok Harris, 4 � Ross Skeate, 5 � Francois van der Merwe, 6 � Luke Watson (captain), 7 � Schalk Burger, 8 � Justin Melck, 9 � Bolla Conradie, 10 � Peter Grant, 11 � Dylan Des Fountain, 12 � De Wet Barry, 13 � Jean de Villiers, 14 � Breyton Paulse, 15 � Brent Russell.

Reserves: 16 � Huia Edmonds, 17 � Schalk Ferreira, 18 � Gerrie Britz, 19 � Andries Bekker, 20 � JP Joubert, 21 � Naas Olivier, 22 � Gio Aplon.


REFEREE: Brett Bowden

Richie McCaw 1582058003