The big New Zealand rugby rivalries have changed over the years as far as the top level is concerned.

Hawkes Bay's struggle for bragging rights against Bay of Plenty will be around for a while yet but although, at Super Rugby level, all teams want the Crusaders to lose, it is perhaps the Hurricanes and their supporters who crave it the most.

It used to be the Chiefs and Crusaders – especially during Dave Rennie's era when the men from the Waikato picked up a couple of titles.

There was little love lost between the sides six or seven years ago. The Crusaders always thought the Chiefs went to the edge and beyond when it came to dirty tricks around the breakdown and the Chiefs disliked their South Island counterparts for their perceived sense of entitlement.


Before that it was the Blues and the Crusaders; Auckland and Canterbury's mutual animosity continuing when the game turned professional in the mid-90s.

Now it's the Hurricanes and Crusaders for the competitiveness of the fixtures over the past couple of years but which probably has its origins in the 2006 Super Rugby "foggy" final at Lancaster Park which until the final whistle was then the Hurricanes' best chance of winning a championship.

Hurricanes fans still maintain the Crusaders used skullduggery in the final moments of that bizarre game, the only problem being no one but the nearest players could see it.

Those in the stands had no chance and it was only marginally better for television viewers.

Those who revisit the match on YouTube will get an insight into the difficulties faced by Sky's commentators Grant Nisbett and Tony Johnson, when, with neither realising their comments are being broadcast in the minutes before the game kicks off, Nisbett tells Johnson: "I'm calling this one off the monitor, mate. Entirely."

In more modern times the Crusaders have lost only three games under Scott Robertson's leadership, and two of those have been at the hands of the Hurricanes; once in Wellington in 2017 and then again in the city last year. The Crusaders' only other loss was to the Highlanders in Dunedin a week after their 29-19 defeat at the Cake Tin in 2018.

But the Crusaders have won 20 in a row in Christchurch and 16 in a row overall, a streak they will be favoured to extend as the Hurricanes have arrived in the city without Beauden Barrett.

One of their best performances came in last year's semifinal in the city when they beat the Hurricanes 30-12 in a complete shutout mitigated for the visitors only by Ben Lam's try after the final hooter. It paved the way for title No.9 for the red and blacks.

The Crusaders like that strip of grass in what is probably the coldest stadium in the country and while it will be warmer this time, the atmosphere will be just as inhospitable.

"It's one of the massive challenges of the season, playing in Christchurch," Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree said this week. "We're playing against obviously an outstanding team and squad and organisation. It's certainly been the benchmark over the past couple of years.

"It's not a bad time of the year to play them because it's a bit warmer. You play them later on and it can be freezing and the conditions change a bit. Hopefully the weather will be good down there and we'll have a good game of footy."