Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Heat on in Suva as NZ's best clash

Seta Tamanivalu of the Chiefs runs through to score a try during the round one Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs at AMI Stadium. Photo / Gettyimages
Seta Tamanivalu of the Chiefs runs through to score a try during the round one Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs at AMI Stadium. Photo / Gettyimages

As Super Rugby resumes after the international break, it appears the Chiefs and Crusaders teams will be compromised by the toll 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 coaches 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.

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.

With temperatures forecast to be in the high 20s, the difference to rain-swept Dunedin, which the All Blacks left on Sunday after the third test against Wales, couldn't 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' will have 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.

Crockett is likely to start at loosehead prop ahead of Moody, for the clash against the Chiefs. Photo / Gettyimages
Crockett is likely to start at loosehead prop ahead of Moody, for the clash against the Chiefs. Photo / Gettyimages

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.

Lock Retallick and flanker Cane 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."

Standings

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

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