Match Details: Saturday 1 August, 7:05pm, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Won: Chiefs 15, Crusaders 22
Last match: Crusaders 18 Chiefs 13 on 28 June 2020
Watch: Sky Sport 1
We don’t need to dwell on the form of the Chiefs. It’s been a tough season. Narrow losses, referee errors and frustration, but they’ve maintained a positive attitude and continue to say they are close to a win. The Crusaders have been their usual best in Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa but suffered their first loss at home against the Hurricanes last week in four years. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Crusaders bounce back from that loss as they look to extend their lead at the top of the table, remembering they have now had both of their byes, so they have a game in hand.
MILESTONES FOR CRUDEN & WHITELOCK
Both Sam Whitelock and Aaron Cruden will be celebrating special milestones when they face off in Hamilton. Crusaders and All Blacks lock, Whitelock, will bring up his 150th Super Rugby game, while Cruden will play his 100th game for the Chiefs, having already made 25 appearances previously for the Hurricanes.
CHIEFS RECORD AT HOME
The Chiefs have got a pretty good record at home against the Crusaders. They have won seven of their last 10 Super Rugby games on home turf, including their last two on the bounce, both in which they had trailed at half time on the day. Flashback to the start of the regular competition in February and the Chiefs pipped the Crusaders 25-15 at home, so they’ll be able to ride on some of the positives from that game. Obviously, the Chiefs have had a season to forget since then, but if they can topple the Crusaders in front of their home fans on Sunday, that may well all be forgotten.
ANGUS TA’AVAO RETURNS
The All Blacks prop has been out of action for six months and is pumped to make his Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa debut off the bench for the Chiefs. Ta’avao has recovered from a torn quadriceps muscle, which he suffered in the win over the Blues in the opening round of the season on January 31. He underwent surgery a month later, but a minor knee niggle since then has also slowed his return to play. Fan favourite, Ta’avao, said he’s like a “kid in a candy store” and can’t wait to finally pull on the Chiefs jersey on Saturday.
The Crusaders have scored eight tries in the final 20 minutes of their games in Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa, the most of any team in the competition and twice as many as the Chiefs.
Chiefs: 1. Reuben O’Neill 2. Bradley Slater 3. Nepo Laulala 4. Tupou Vaa’i 5. Mitchell Brown 6. Lachlan Boshier 7. Sam Cane © 8. Pita Gus Sowakula 9. Brad Weber 10. Aaron Cruden 11. Sean Wainui 12. Alex Nankivell 13. Anton Lienert-Brown 14. Shaun Stevenson 15. Damian McKenzie
Reserves: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho 17. Ollie Norris 18. Angus Ta’avao 19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi 20. Simon Parker* 21. Lisati Milo-Harris 22. Kaleb Trask 23. Quinn Tupaea
*Super Rugby debut
Crusaders: 1. George Bower 2. Codie Taylor © 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Samuel Whitelock 5. Mitchell Dunshea 6. Sione Havili 7. Tom Christie 8. Tom Sanders 9. Mitchell Drummond 10. Richie Mo’unga 11. George Bridge 12. Jack Goodhue (vc) 13. Fetuli Paea 14. Sevu Reece 15. Will Jordan
Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio 17. Isileli Tu’ungafasi 18. Oliver Jager 19. Quinten Strange 20. Billy Harmon 21. Bryn Hall 22. Brett Cameron 23. Leicester Fainga’anuku