Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Kiwi sides on the rise in Super Rugby

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Glen Fisiiahi scores against the Kings. Photo / Getty
Glen Fisiiahi scores against the Kings. Photo / Getty

The Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders will all be feeling good about themselves following very different victories this weekend.

The Blues, too, will feel okay despite their loss to the Hurricanes at Eden Park. While they made some poor decisions at times, and were a bit unlucky with a couple of rulings, they were well in the match in the final minutes and perhaps should have won in the end, with the pack scenting blood and Victor Vito in the sinbin.

The Hurricanes got off the mark at last, the Chiefs put the Kings to the sword to help wash away the disappointment of last weekend's loss to the Lions, and the Highlanders looked superb on the counter against that very team in Dunedin.

One team out of this picture is the Crusaders because of their bye. But they will be feeling just as happy as the rest of their New Zealand colleagues, if not more so.

They are in pretty good shape with five competition points, and despite sitting out the weekend they remain in a play-off spot - fifth overall in the Australasian conference behind the Brumbies, Chiefs, Highlanders and Rebels and with a game in hand.

They are also sitting in wait for the visit of the Kings, who have yet to pick up a competition point this season, were hammered 58-24 by the Chiefs at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and must make the long and arduous trek to Christchurch with the real possibility of being humiliated by one of the best packs in the competition.

Todd Blackadder should be feeling pretty good about things because, despite having some very heavy backline artillery out injured in the form of Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty and Robbie Fruean, he has a pack who can virtually win matches on their own. Owen Franks looks revitalised, Sam Whitelock is playing well, Jordan Taufua is his usual powerful self, and they are getting good performances from newer guys like Tom Barrett and Jimmy Tupou.

Remember, too, that Luke Romano and Matt Todd are yet to play this season.

Add in some organised defence and the fact that they are refusing to take any risks in their own half, and that's a pretty formidable unit, especially when you have the finishing power of Nemani Nadolo lurking on one wing.

Following the Kings match next Saturday the Crusaders will the on the road with two difficult games in South Africa against the Sharks and Lions, and a tricky visit to Perth to play the Force on the way back.

It's imperative then that Blackadder's men prepare well this week because anything less than five competition points will leave them extremely disappointed.

The new bonus point system of teams needing to score three more tries than the opposition caught out the Highlanders after Ruan Ackermann scored by the posts in Dunedin in the final minutes to make it four tries to two, and the Crusaders must be aware than any similar slip-up will not be acceptable.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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