Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Chiefs and Crusaders to ease way into Fiji battle

Codie Taylor, Sam Cane and Tawera Kerr-Barlow could all be in the mix for the clash in Suva. Photo / Getty
Codie Taylor, Sam Cane and Tawera Kerr-Barlow could all be in the mix for the clash in Suva. Photo / Getty

As Super Rugby resumes after the international break, it appears both the Chiefs and Crusaders teams will be compromised by the toll it has taken on their All Blacks ahead of their pivotal match in Fiji's capital Suva on Friday.

It could have been a lot worse, and it appears that only Ryan Crotty (calf) has been ruled out of the match, but both Dave Rennie and Todd Blackadder have suggested they will have to juggle their resources carefully - which means some of their front-line players may not start the match.

With the Crusaders holding a three-point lead over the Chiefs at the top of the New Zealand conference, the stakes could hardly be higher. There are only two round-robin matches remaining so the winning team will go a long way in establishing home advantage for the playoffs.

The Chiefs were scheduled to arrive in Suva this afternoon, the Crusaders tomorrow. With temperatures forecasted to be in the high 20s, the difference to rain-swept Dunedin, which the All Blacks left on Sunday, could hardly be greater.

"The energy's there," Blackadder said. "If anything, it's just getting the clarity, getting the guys getting used to the calls again so they can go out there on Friday and rip into it."

All Blacks skipper Kieran Read has given himself the all-clear to be one of them, despite the workload involved in starting three tests against Wales in his new leadership role.

But which of the two teams' All Blacks start the match remains to be seen. The Crusaders will have eight All Blacks available; Read, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock and Israel Dagg, the Chiefs' seven; Nathan Harris, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Seta Tamanivalu and Damian McKenzie.

Crockett is likely to start at loosehead prop ahead of Moody, who started all three tests, but apart from Read, the Crusaders' other All Blacks started a maximum of only two.

For the Chiefs, a question mark surrounds the fitness of first-five Cruden, carried from the Westpac Stadium pitch with a neck injury during the second test, but apparently close to being fit to start.

Lock Retallick and flanker Cane both got through a lot of work against Wales and will be Rennie's main concerns.

Read said getting re-acquainted with the Crusaders' calls and game plan was the hardest task. "Your mind starts whirring around again trying to remember all those calls from four weeks ago; you've got all the All Blacks calls in your head still," he said. "So that's probably the toughest thing, but after a couple of days running around with the boys it starts to come back pretty quickly.

"The body is in good shape, it's always sore after test match footy but I'll make sure I look after it for the next couple of days and be ready to go on Friday."

NZ teams' Super standings
Crusaders (1st overall) 45
Chiefs (5th) 42
Hurricanes (6th) 40
Highlanders (7th) 38
Blues (11th) 30

Chiefs' next matches: Reds (away), Highlanders (away)
Crusaders' next matches: Rebels (home), Hurricanes (home)

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 21 Oct 2016 10:30:55 Processing Time: 1068ms