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All Blacks great Mils Muliaina tips Crusaders’ winless start to continue

By Finn Morton
The Crusaders during a water break in Fiji. Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images

Rugby World Cup-winning All Black Mils Muliaina has tipped the Crusaders’ winless start to continue in round five as the pressure on the defending champions continues to build.

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For the first time in team history, the Crusaders have started a Super Rugby season with an 0-4 record. This unwanted stretch outdoes the team’s run in 1996 of three consecutive losses and a fourth-round draw.

The Crusaders have had to manage a tough draw and a stunning injury toll which has seen the likes of Scott Barrett, Will Jordan, Leigh Halfpenny and Tamaiti Williams ruled out for extended periods.

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While the top eight sides in the 12-team Super Rugby Pacific make the playoffs, the reigning competition champions will already be desperate to bounce back by improving on their current 11th place standing on the ladder.

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With the Crusaders currently eight competition points away from passing eighth-place Moana Pasifika, former All Black Mils Muliaina said “there is a lot of pressure” on the team ahead of their Kiwi derby with the Blues at Eden Park.

“A lot of Kiwis north of Nelson are feeling pretty happy and enjoying this run of form from there. There is a bit of pressure,” Muliaina said on Stan Sports’ The Call Up.

“This could be the game that the Blues really need to get right.

“They can either not play as well and let the Crusaders, who they’re not far away, get that first game back as a winner as a huge game and then roll on, or they can actually keep that downward spiral happening with the Crusaders.

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“Last week, that was theirs to win and I haven’t seen that before with the Crusaders when they’ve got the lead-up and then they (normally) close the game out. Even with the Hurricanes going for the corner, I’ve been there when numerous teams have gone for the corner, they’ve been down and the Crusaders have defended it or not given away those penalties.

“This is a lot different territory for the Crusaders but there is a lot of pressure on that team at the moment but they’ve been a team that’s come out of that sort of stuff in the past.”

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The Blues, who sit in fourth place with three wins and one defeat to their name, have made a handful of changes to the starting side including the return of captain Patrick Tuipulotu.

Following their unconvincing 12-10 win over the Waratahs in Sydney last weekend, the Aucklanders will be eager to make a statement against their winless woe.

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Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui believes the Blues can win “comfortably” if they play to their potential, and Muliaina has tipped a similar result before Saturday’s crunch clash.

“I think it does,” Muliaina added when asked if the Crusaders’ winless run continues.

“I think given the form that the Blues have been in… I think this could be a game where the Blues really step up back at Eden Park.

“I think this is going to be a massive test for them.”

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3 Comments
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MattJH 117 days ago

The Crusaders haven’t been that bad. And even if they had, they’ll pull a game out of their arse against the Blues on pure hatred alone.
I’m not ordering a Latte of Victory just yet.

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William 4 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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