How the Crusaders plan to topple the Reds in Trans-Tasman clash of Super Rugby champions
New Zealand’s best will go head-to-head with Australia’s finest in the second round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman this weekend as the Crusaders travel to Brisbane to take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
It’s a venue that holds plenty of significance for both sides, given it was the stage where the Reds defeated the Crusaders to win their first, and only, Super Rugby title in 2011.
10 years have passed since that famous victory, but, with both teams carrying champion status from their respective domestic competitions into this Saturday’s encounter, a similarly enthralling encounter is expected in the Queensland capital.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has drawn on that famous final – where the brilliance of Will Genia and Quade Cooper edged an all-star Crusaders team that was forced to play all of its games away from home due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake – for inspiration ahead of this year’s titanic clash.
“We just made ourselves aware and remembered how tough and tight it was right to the last call in the end there,” he told media of the 2011 final on Thursday.
“Both teams were in it and it was a pretty proud moment for the Reds that day and it hurt for the Crusaders… It was pretty gutting. They travelled around the world and hadn’t had a home game. They were trying to finish off something special that year.”
Most players from both teams who featured in that final have moved on, but there will be some familiar faces at Suncorp Stadium come this weekend.
Crusaders veteran Sam Whitelock is the only player who appeared in that final who will again take to the field in the 2021 rematch, while his second row partner from 2011, Brad Thorn, is now head coach of the Reds.
Under Thorn’s stewardship, the Reds have established themselves as Australia’s premier club side, boasting a plethora of headline names.
Taniela Tupou, James O’Connor, Suliasi Vunivalu, Hunter Paisami, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Tate McDermott, Liam Wright, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto are among the stars set to square off against the Crusaders, and Robertson is acutely aware of the threats they pose.
“What we know about the Reds is they’ve got a lot of guys who break the game open. They’re powerful, they’re quick. When they hold the ball or get their game right, they’re as good as anyone in the comp, especially at Suncorp,” he said.
“They won some tight ones and they can blow you away if they’re right on, so they’ve got some great talent.”
In order for the Crusaders to overcome that talent themselves, Robertson said his side needs to maintain a high level of intensity throughout the entire match, something they didn’t do in last week’s 31-29 win over the Brumbies.
“Turn up with the intensity we had for Super Rugby Aotearoa. We had it for 70 minutes last week,” he said.
“We know how tough it is, especially the Reds there [in Brisbane]. We know it’s a cauldron. We know it’s a big occasion. We understand it’s the 10-year anniversary since they pipped us in the final.
“It’s a hell of an occasion, so we just want to get excited by it.”
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