All you need to know: Super Rugby Aotearoa final

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 May 2021, 11:47AM
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. (Photo / Getty)
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. (Photo / Getty)

All you need to know: Super Rugby Aotearoa final

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 May 2021, 11:47AM

All you need to know ahead of the Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 final in Christchurch.

After 10 weeks of fierce local derbies, the Crusaders and Chiefs have emerged at the top of the tree of domestic rugby in Aotearoa and will meet for the first time in a Super Rugby final.

The Crusaders come into the final having won 2020's impromptu tournament, as well as the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Super Rugby championships. The side have also appeared in a record 14 Super Rugby finals, winning 10 of those, and has never lost a playoff match at home. A victory in Christchurch on Saturday would continue the side's unprecedented run of title success.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have turned the tables following a winless 2020 campaign, and after losing their first two of 2021, won five straight to secure a spot in their first final since 2013.

Ominously for Crusaders fans, the Chiefs won the two sides' last encounter in Round 8 of the competition 26-25.

However, with a week off going into the final and the Chiefs having lost convincingly - albeit in a dead rubber with a second-string team - to the Blues last weekend, all signs point to the Crusaders as being firm favourites for a fifth consecutive Super Rugby title.

Squads

Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Leicester Fainga'anuku, David Havili, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili Talitui, Ethan Blackadder, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett (c), Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, George Bower.

Reserves: Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams, Oliver Jager, Mitchell Dunshea, Tom Sanders, Bryn Hall, Dallas McLeod, Braydon Ennor.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Jonah Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Bryn Gatland, Brad Weber (c), Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier, Pita Gus Sowakula, Mitchell Brown, Tupou Vaa'i, Angus Ta'avao, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Aidan Ross.

Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Sione Mafileo, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Zane Kapeli, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Rameka Poihipi, Chase Tiatia.

The Officials:

Referee: Ben O'Keeffe

Assistant referees: James Doleman, Paul Williams

TMO: Brendon Pickerill

Settled squads

The return of Braydon Ennor to the Crusaders bench is the sole change to the same squad that took the field against the Blues two weeks ago in Christchurch.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have retained the vast majority of the side that scored a last-minute win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton two weeks ago. Pita Gus Sowakula will make his second start of the season in the back row, shifting Luke Jacobson to No 8 and Mitch Brown into the second row.

Naitoa Ah Kuoi drops to the bench and is joined there by Tongan international Zane Kapeli, Rameka Poihipi and the returning Chase Tiatia.

Four things to watch

  1. Will strategy pay off for the Chiefs?

The Chiefs rested their big names last week - Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Brad Weber, Luke Jacobson, Etene Nanai-Seturo et al - and we'll soon find out whether that was a good move by coach Clayton McMillan.

  1. Unlocking the Crusaders scrum

The Crusaders pack was able to monster the Chiefs scrum in the side's round-three match in Christchurch but haven't been able to do the same to any team since. Will that dominance return on Saturday?

  1. Will bad-bye history repeat?

The last time the Crusaders had a week off in this tournament the side recorded a shambolic 33-12 loss to the Highlanders. How the team responds to another break will be fascinating.

  1. Coaching rivalry

Clayton McMillan has been arguably the best coach in the competition this year. He joined the Chiefs as an interim head coach, inheriting a team that went winless last year, and quickly turned things around to form a unit that plays with focus for the full 80 minutes.

That trait will come in handy against a Crusaders team with second-half excellence embedded within its culture.

How McMillan and Crusaders coach Scott Robertson deploy their bench in the final 40 may decide this encounter.

How to watch

The Herald will provide live updates. You can also catch live commentary of the match on Newstalk ZB, Gold AM and iHeartRadio.

The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1, with coverage beginning at 6pm. If you want to watch the match online, you can stream the game live via Sky Sport Now.

TAB odds (as of Saturday AM)

Crusaders: $1.22
Chiefs: $3.90

Head-to-head

The two sides have played 40 matches against each other in Super Rugby with the Crusaders winning 24, the Chiefs winning 16 - with 12 of those recorded since 2011. No other New Zealand side has beaten the Crusaders as many times as the Chiefs.

Last match: Chiefs won 26-25, Hamilton (April 17, 2021)