COMMENT: Hitch yourself to that foundation rugby tablet which proclaims rugby victories are built on forward supremacy and you have to put the house, the family, the pets, even the golf clubs on the Crusaders beating the Hurricanes tonight.

On that gnarly old marker of pack-power the Crusaders will break down the Canes and take their favourite tag into next week's Super Rugby final on their home ground.

By reputation and with statistical backup, the Crusader forwards hold a significant advantage with Jordan Taufua the only uncapped member of their pack because a leg strain prevented his signposted debut in June.

They have experience in mega-doses through an All Black front-row, premium lock Sam Whitelock and national skipper Kieran Read bolted on to the back of the scrum.


Three other international forwards wait on the bench to counter any impact from the Canes test pair of Vaea Fifita and Ardie Savea.

The comparisons between the starting packs scarcely move the needle with tighthead prop Jeff To'omaga-Allen the lone All Black in the Hurricanes starting pack alongside captain Brad Shields, who has played a test for the Poms, and loosehead prop Toby Smith who has been an occasional Wallaby rep.

When the Crusaders get their game going to dominate set-piece ball, territory and the flow of the game they will pin the visitors deep in their half and work on disrupting their lineout and scrum possession. All the Canes' wondrous attacking backline talent will be left to deal with fractured ball and their frustrations.

Write down a big W next to the Crusaders in your newspaper liftout and move on because there won't be any worthwhile odds backing them at your local haunt.

Not a believer and stuck in some fantasyland where the Canes conjure up an outlandish triumph? My imaginary money was on them at the start of the tournament but they've had a wobbly wheel since mid-May and their fragility up front is hurting them more, while the Crusaders have been immense across their whole team.

Anything is possible but the Crusaders' dominance of this tournament, their home ground advantage and surging confidence is a game too far for the Canes.

That's the only logical conclusion to make on this season's evidence, coated with a dash of historical icing which shows the Crusaders have never lost a semifinal in Christchurch and have beaten the Canes in their three semifinal clashes and the 2006 fog final.

Other teams with those sorts of advantages might make a hash of this match but the Crusaders don't fall into that category.


They are pragmatic men driven to high standards by their own ethos and the colourful style of their coach Scott Robertson.

He's a zany surfer break-dancing dude with a ruthless rugby edge - a latter-day version of Steve Hansen who has that innate rugby sharpness balanced by a laconic rounded view on life.

When the work is done there are times to kick back but at crunch time Robertson tunes in and expects his men to follow.

The Hurricanes will be working along similar lines but they will follow the rest of the teams who have felt the Crusaders put the sword through them.