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Some rugby rivalries are just bigger than most. The build-up to Saturday’s top-of-table clash between the Crusaders and the Blues has reached fever pitch.
Orangetheory Stadium’s 18,000 seats have all been sold and not even the frosty 3°C temperature will deter the fans from flocking to the venue.
The Crusaders have won their last 11 consecutive Super Rugby games against the Blues, with their last defeat to the Auckland franchise came in round 3, 2014. They are undefeated in their last 35 Super Rugby games played as hosts (34 wins and one draw) and haven’t lost at home to the Blues since way back in 2004.
The 2020 Blues are a different ilk, however. The Aucklanders have won their last seven Super Rugby games on the bounce with the only previous time they won more in succession during an undefeated 1997 campaign.
The revival of the Blues, under the coaching guidance of Leon MacDonald, is a major contributing factor to the interest in Saturday’s derby.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, a former teammate of MacDonald, was lavish with the plaudits.
“Leon is a great coach, that’s why I had him in my All Blacks coaching group,” said Robertson told stuff.co.nz of his failed attempt to get the national coaching job.
“I knew he was world-class and knew he would turn the team [Blues] around.
“They’ve done extremely well with a lot of the local guys in there and it shows work ethic and how much care they have in their group and organisation.”
The three-times Super Rugby-winning coach, Robertson, said the ere was a real ‘buzz’ around Christchurch.
Blues forwards coach Tom Coventry played down the Auckland team’s impressive form this year.
“We’re just keeping our heads clear, making sure we keep our feet on the ground,” Coventry told stuff.co.nz.
“We understand it’s a big challenge, going down to Christchurch.”
Coventry wants his side to be more clinical.
“[We need to] make sure that when we’ve got possession we can look after the ball.”
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