Rugby: Crusaders set to put heat on Hurricanes scrum, midfield

By Campbell Burnes

Hurricane's TJ Perenara protects the ball as acting half back Ben Franks clears the ball from the ruck during the match between Hurricanes v Crusaders. Photo / File
Hurricane's TJ Perenara protects the ball as acting half back Ben Franks clears the ball from the ruck during the match between Hurricanes v Crusaders. Photo / File

The Crusaders will target the Hurricanes scrum and an untried new midfield combination in Saturday's high stakes contest in Christchurch.

There was huge merit in the Hurricanes' gritty 28-17 Super Rugby win over the Waratahs in Sydney, but there was not scope, in slippery conditions with bruising defence, to push hard for the bonus point. Not that that would have cleared the playoffs picture in the New Zealand conference.

The Hurricanes lineout was able to successfully disrupt the Waratahs, but in turn the home side put heat on the visitors' scrum, and now tighthead prop Chris Eves has a cut ear and possible concussion, which could rule him out of the final round match-up. The Crusaders are lying in wait with a clutch of All Blacks front-rowers.

Willis Halaholo was solid at second-five, aside from his high shot on Bernard Foley, which earned a trip to the sinbin. His midfield partner Matt Proctor limped off after 25 minutes with a hamstring injury, so his place will likely go to Ngani Laumape.

He, in turn, will wince at the review when he sees how high he went on a try-bound Israel Folau.

Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty will make them earn their keep. The All Black has a low mistake rate and runs good attacking angles, as he showed with two tries in the Crusaders' 85-24 shellacking of a tackle-shy Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.

Adding to Hurricanes concerns will be the return of talismanic captain Kieran Read.

The Hurricanes showed their ample defensive qualities against the Waratahs.

"The Waratahs tried to beat us up and dominate us physically. After halftime, they went into that direct combat mode and we stood up to that. Our plan was to absorb that pressure, then move it around, and that was successful," said a rapt Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd.

"When a team comes to bully you physically, you can stand up or wilt. We made a collective decision not to wilt. It was one of our two or three best efforts this year."

Boyd will be hoping to say something similar to media at about 7.15pm this Saturday night in what is shaping as yet another rugged New Zealand derby.

- NZ Herald

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