Picture All Blacks coach Steve Hansen watching tomorrow's Super Rugby final in Christchurch while peeking between his fingers at, among other things, a Jaguares team likely to form the bulk of his side's Argentina opposition in Buenos Aires in a fortnight and you'll be getting close to the truth.

Eleven of the All Blacks' 39-player Rugby Championship squad will be representing the Crusaders as they seek to make history with three titles in three years under coach Scott Robertson, and Hansen must endure the risk of one or more of his players being seriously injured one last time before the start of the international season which culminates, of course, in the World Cup.

He has already lost midfielder Ryan Crotty for two months due to a broken thumb and lock Scott Barrett for about six weeks due to a broken hand. Injuries are part of the game but that doesn't make them any easier to accept and the Jaguares have arrived in the south with a test-strength squad and confidence to match.

Hansen will ease his Crusaders contingent into the Rugby Championship – starting probably with a few made available for the South Africa test in Wellington on July 27 – but there will not be a softly-softly approach from either team in Christchurch. The opening exchanges, in particular, are expected to be test-like in their brutality as the visitors attempt their own shot at creating history.


The All Blacks coach watched as the Argentines tore the Brumbies apart in Buenos Aires in their semifinal last weekend and gives them every chance of succeeding in what, for them, is uncharted territory. He also said the two best Super Rugby teams were in the final.

Scott Robertson during Crusaders training at Rugby Park, Christchurch this week. Photo / Photosport
Scott Robertson during Crusaders training at Rugby Park, Christchurch this week. Photo / Photosport

"They're using their whole team," Hansen said of the Jaguares. "They've always had big, bruising forwards, but their backs have scored some sensational tries. They really opened the Brumbies up the other day with the opportunities they had on turnover ball; they really punished them.

"They're just playing with a lot of confidence and together as a team rather than as a group of individuals. You combine their strength as a forward pack and what they're doing with the ball in hand with the backline and that makes them a really dangerous side.

"Traditionally they've always been a strong scrummaging team and it's ironic, they've probably lost a little bit of that strength but they've gained a whole lot of other ones.

"But the biggest weapon they've gained I think is confidence. They've got a belief.

"Achieving anything in life is 80 to 90 per cent believing that you can do it, I think they're going down there thinking 100 per cent that they can beat the Crusaders. That will make them dangerous.

"If they do win it I hope they celebrate really long and hard because I think there's 39 of their squad in the [Argentina] group they've named. A few headaches would be good for a couple of weeks."

Hansen will be thankful that the bulk of his top Crusaders – props Joe Moody and Owen Franks, lock Sam Whitelock, No 8 Kieran Read and midfielder Jack Goodhue virtually select themselves for big tests – have played all three of their playoff matches in Christchurch by virtue of Robertson's side finishing as the top qualifiers.


He is likely to send a vastly different looking team to Argentina next Friday (he, along with his fellow coaches, will leave a few days later after catching up with the Crusaders), with key Hurricanes Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea possibilities to miss the trip after an arduous season which finished for them in the disappointment of a semifinal defeat in Christchurch and an illness which prevented them from attending the All Blacks camp in Auckland this week.

The Jaguares will be confident of beating the Crusaders, says Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images
The Jaguares will be confident of beating the Crusaders, says Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images

The Pumas face a similar juggling act, but may be tempted to name a strong side as they are likely to view the test as their best ever chance of beating the All Blacks for the first time.

"They've been smart," Hansen said of the Jaguares, who are effectively the Pumas in disguise.

"They've decided they can't play [the same individuals] all the time and they've developed a big base of players.

"The one thing we know about travel, however, is that at some point it will catch up on you. Going deep into the finals as they have ... they've had to travel here and they will have to travel back."