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Crusaders stars could sit out Blues clash in Super Rugby Aotearoa finale

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Having clinched the Super Rugby Aotearoa title with a round to spare, don’t expect the Crusaders to front up against the Blues with a full-strength team in the final round of action this Sunday.

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Head coach Scott Robertson, who is reportedly expected to extend his contract with the Christchurch franchise through until 2023, has revealed he is weighing up whether he will rest some of his key players at this weekend’s clash at Eden Park.

Eager to end a six-year drought against their historic rivals, there will be no shortage of motivation for the second-placed Blues, whose title aspirations were nullified when the Crusaders defeated the Highlanders 32-22 at Orangetheory Stadium yesterday.

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With the match effectively a dead-rubber given the Crusaders have already stored away the Super Rugby Aotearoa silverware, the clash could present Robertson with an opportunity to blood some younger players who haven’t yet been called upon.

The likes of prop Harry Allen and midfielder Inga Finau haven’t featured at all this year, while others such as Manasa Mataele and Fergus Burke haven’t taken played for the Crusaders since returning from the COVID-19 lockdown.

Fielding such inexperience could prove to be detrimental to the team’s chances of winning, though, especially given the Blues are likely to name a strong side in a bid to end their 12-match hoodoo against the Crusaders in front of a sold-out Eden Park.

It’s a predicament that Robertson described as a tough balancing act in the wake of his squad’s victory over the Highlanders.

“It’s a really good question,’’ he said, as quoted by Stuff. “We haven’t gone too deep into it [selection talk], because we just wanted to get this result sorted.’’

“It’s a balance, because if you chuck too many out your cohesion goes, and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough players that are match fit.’’

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What is certain is that Robertson will be without two of his key props, Joe Moody and Oli Jager.

Both left the field with injuries yesterday. Moody was pulled from the game with a neck injury after just 14 minutes, while Jager was stretchered off the park after being on the receiving end of a reckless shoulder charge by Sio Tomkinson in the second half.

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That should hand Allen and fellow back-up props Isi Tu’ungafasi and George Bower – who was Moody’s replacement against the Highlanders – an opportunity for game time against the Blues alongside incumbent starter Michael Alaalatoa.

Stuff reports that star first-five Richie Mo’unga, who has arguably been the player of the competition, may also miss the game due to the expected birth of his first child within the next week.

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Having played all but four minutes of the Crusaders’ Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, Mo’unga’s absence could also open the door for one-test All Blacks playmaker Brett Cameron and rookie pivot Burke this weekend.

‘’We will discuss it with him, if that’s the right thing…look, we’ll have chat,” Robertson said of Mo’unga’s availability.

The Crusaders will name their side for the final game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season on Friday afternoon.

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M
Mzilikazi 4 hours ago
Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt

Nice article, Brett, and good to be writing about a second win. I think Georgia will be far more testing. Tbh, I have not looked at their touring squad, but at full strength they are a far better and more dangerous team than they were at RWC France. They would have been disappointed they did not perform to full potential there. I think that the WB’s under Joe Schmidt have started soundly. Recovery from a serious setback always takes time. And the Jones era was that and more. I think the arrival of Les Kiss back to his native Qld. is a very positive factor, and the fact that he and Schmidt know each other well is a help. Players I think are much improved this year: Daugunu, who has blossomed with the Rebels, so credit to the coaching unit down there. Am pleased he will come back to the Reds. McReight is said to have put on up to 7 kgs since last season. His work rate has always been good, but it is his carrying into contact that has gone up. Now makes those critical one or two metres post contact very often. Is conceding fewer penalties now as his game matures. Rob Valetini was good last year, but is now a greater force this one. A really punishing ball carrier. Hunter Paisami is now a more controlled player. His carrying into contact is very impressive for an 80 kg man. Interestingly, if you saw Nick Bishops latest article, he has a team for RC with Kerevi at 12. Also Skelton in the team. Not sure if there will be o’seas players as early as RC though….but need them in by the EYOT games.

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FEATURE Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt
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