Crusaders expecting a scrap from StormersSave
By Patrick McKendry
For Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor, the Stormers showed their intent in their match against the Chiefs with a scuffle in the opening minutes of what turned out to be a big victory.
He's expecting more of the same tomorrow when the South Africans take to the AMI Stadium pitch in a match between two conference leaders. But another element to their game this season is the way former Blues assistant Paul Feeney has added a new attacking edge.
The All Blacks back-up hooker, off contract at the end of the year but hoping to re-commit to New Zealand Rugby in a deal which he take him past the 2019 World Cup, believes that new balance makes the men from Cape Town, who have lost only once this season, dangerous opposition.
"Obviously being a South Africa team we'll know what they're going to bring, but they've got a New Zealand coach this year and that's showing in the way they are playing. They're really throwing the ball around, I think they've got the second best counter-attack in the competition at the moment.
"We think they will bring that South African mindset of physicality but bring that flair too.
"They have some big players in their forward pack and we know from playing South Africa that they can try to get under your skin."
Coach Scott Robertson said the match between the Stormers and Chiefs a fortnight ago, won 34-26 by the home side, should be a valuable lesson to a group of players hoping to extend their unbeaten streak.
"The Stormers were pretty brutal in that game," Robertson said. "There was probably a bit of history from the year before [when the Chiefs won] so it was a little personal wasn't it? And it's going to have to be like that if they are going to come and beat Kiwi teams. We know that.
"It was a good viewing for us. We need to get our preparation bang on."
Robertson has been able to name a strong side, with only injured All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg unavailable due to his recovery from knee surgery. He admitted to having a robust discussion about his No10 and whether Richie Mo'unga or Mitchell Hunt should start, before deciding to go with the former, his first-choice at the start of the season before injury.
Robertson said Mo'unga's experience and combination with second-five Ryan Crotty was a critical factor in his thinking, although Hunt had taken his opportunities extremely well while Mo'unga was out with a hand injury.
In one disappointing development at the franchise, the Crusaders have had to say goodbye to loose forward Whetu Douglas after his signing with Treviso. Douglas, signed from Waikato as injury cover in the wake of Kieran Read's wrist injury, had signed a contract with the Italian club but had hoped to delay his arrival for another six weeks.
Instead, the club want the player, who has been a revelation in terms of his workrate and influence deep into matches, as soon as possible.
Robertson said: "He left this week with a lot of disappointment because he was an absolute champion on and off the field."
Crusaders team to play Stormers at AMI Stadium tomorrow night, kick-off 7.35 is:
David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele.
- Rugby World Cup