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Crusaders double down on character for decisive Blues test

By Ned Lester
Chay Fihaki of the Crusaders. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

The Crusaders may be down, but even with 10 losses in the Super Rugby Pacific season, they are not out.

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Sitting six competition points out of the top eight, there remains a slim window of opportunity should other results go the reigning champions’ way.

The team though will be entirely focused on the two remaining tasks at hand, the first of which happens to be the form team in the competition and a famous rival; the Blues.

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Having had the better of their Auckland foes for the past decade, the Crusaders in 2024 find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being heavy underdogs at the bottom of the table facing a rolling Blues outfit peaking at the right end of the competition.

“All we can worry about is our performance. If we take care of that, we’ll see what else happens. We’ll just worry about our part,” assistant coach Matt Todd said ahead of the contest.

“It’s a great challenge this week, the Blues are in great form coming to our home. We’re excited by that challenge, these are the games you want to be part of.

“We’ll build this week nicely and get excited for Saturday.”

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
4
Draws
0
Wins
1
Average Points scored
27
20
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
80%

The fortress that is OrangeTheory Stadium had forged an intimidating aura over the Crusaders’ dynastic run, but in 2024, the Crusaders have fallen to both the Reds and Hurricanes in Christchurch. However, both of the club’s wins this season – against the Chiefs and Rebels – have come on home soil.

The club have a proud history of defending home soil against the Blues, but the rivalry has never faced a chapter quite like this.

Todd was honest when it came to his thoughts on the team’s mentality and shortcomings.

“When you’ve had success, you’re always confident of getting more success. Whether we were waiting for it to happen, as opposed to making it happen, I’m not sure.

“I think certainly the belief is still there that we can play good footy. We can beat anyone on our day. We just need to put the performance together over the full 80 minutes, not in patches.”

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Being on the outside of the playoff picture looking in is undeniably an unfamiliar position for the perennial champs, and Todd admits it’s tough to be in the situation they find themselves in.

“It’s not where we want to be, it hurts that we are where we are.

“If you look back through the history of this club, they’ve had years where they haven’t been at their best.

“It’s the character of the team, what you do in those moments. It’s easy when it’s going well and everything is going as you hope. But in moments like this, when the season perhaps isn’t going how it is [supposed to], it’s a real character test, it shows what you’re made of.

“That’s our focus at the moment: revealing character and showing what the jersey and team mean to us.”

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