Preview: Crusaders v Jaguares
SUPER RUGBY FINAL: Helping to heal a devastated city has become a motivating factor for the Crusaders, as the competition’s most successful side prepare for a showdown with the Jaguares, the season’s success story.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders are bidding for a third successive title and their 10th overall, while the Jaguares have reached the Final in only their fourth year in the Southern Hemisphere championship.
The Crusaders say the departure of a group of cherished players will have them playing with the same sort of emotion the Jaguares are likely to bring in Christchurch on Saturday.
Short-priced favourites to win, the Crusaders are wary of the sort of passion the underdog South Americans will bring.
While the Crusaders are renowned for their methodical, almost tunnel-vision approach, flank Matt Todd said the looming last game for a number of acclaimed teammates will play a part this week.
Japan-bound All Black captain Kieran Read is the longest-serving departee, having debuted in 2007.
Midfield back Ryan Crotty, prop Owen Franks and flank Jordan Taufua have all notched a century of games in red and black, while Todd himself has yet to commit to next season.
Captain Sam Whitelock is also taking next year off under a sabbatical in his NZ Rugby contract but will return in 2021.
Last year’s side didn’t have the same post-season cleanout although players admitted they had been inspired to win for retiring prop Wyatt Crockett, the most capped player in Super Rugby.
Todd said sadness enveloped the team when Crotty was ruled out of the final with a fractured thumb suffered in last week’s 30-26 semifinal win over the Hurricanes.
- Continue reading below video …
“You’re gutted for him. It was his last game for us and he’s a massive part of the Crusaders. And I know how much the Crusaders mean to him,” Todd said.
“You hurt for him but he’s still around the team and as positive as ever so that will be on our minds through the week.”
The Jaguares appear to have embraced their status as a shadow international team.
Coach Gonzalo Quesada has leaned heavily on experience to topple the defending champions, with 11 of his starting team having been involved in Argentina’s most recent Test – against Scotland last November.
Outside centre Matias Orlando said his team are hardened from enough big games to be able to handle the pressure of a Final.
“We are here because it is what we wanted and what we dreamed and we do not want to miss this opportunity,” he said through a translator.
“I do not know if we or they are better but on Saturday we play 80 minutes where we will define who is the best.
“All the experience that we add these years make us today very confident and we know that we have the ability to play as an equal to a team that everyone sees as a favourite.”
The Jaguares have won 11 or their last 12 games in a breakthrough campaign although they haven’t played the top qualifying Crusaders this season.
“They’re good,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said.
“We’re really impressed with their quality of play, their variation in their style of attack. They rank really high in all the stats, defensively they’re second in the comp, they’ve got a lot of international experience. They’re on a roll.”
But the Crusaders have homeground advantage and even more impressive statistics, being equal with the Jaguares on defence while leading the way for tries scored and clean breaks.
Although the Jaguares have won their last seven games, coach Gonzalo Quesada downplayed talk of a history-making final victory and the relevance of statistics.
“We are trying to keep the team a little bit away from that picture of what’s happening concerning that history thing,” he said.
“It’s great, it’s amazing, but I think it can distract us from what we should have the focus on now – that is to keep on trying with lots of humility to improve our game.
“Whenever we talk about the history of the points, or the statistics that are quite interesting. However, we have to be careful because that can make us lose focus.”
The two teams avoided each other in the regular season – with the Crusaders finishing top of the table, with the Jaguares heading the South African conference.
When the Jaguares dispatched the Brumbies in the semifinals last week they dominated, except for in the scrum, which would not have gone unnoticed by the Crusaders.
Similarly, the Jaguares would have taken note of Crusaders’ errors around the ruck and defensively in the midfield.
“Mostly finals are won off great defence,” Robertson said, adding the Crusaders had concentrated this week on taking the emotion out of the occasion and focusing on performance.
But while he has quelled the Crusaders’ emotion, Robertson is in awe of how the Jaguares use their Latin passion for inspiration.
“The passion and emotion they bring I think is a danger. If they come out and play with that energy, which is great and I enjoy that Latin expression that they bring, they’ll be emotional, they’ll be up for it, and they’ll be dangerous,” he said.
Road to the Final
Prediction: The Crusaders and Jaguares will clash for just the third time in Super Rugby, the Crusaders picked up a win in each of their two meetings by an average margin of 22 points per game. Only twice in Super Rugby history has the Grand Final been won by a team playing outside their home country (the Crusaders defeated the Brumbies in 2000 and the Crusaders defeated the Lions in 2017). Nine of the last 13 Super Rugby Grand finals have been decided by a margin of fewer than 10 points; though, only one of the last three fits that bill. The Crusaders are undefeated in their last 30 Super Rugby games played on home soil (29 wins and one draw); the last time they lost at home to a team from outside New Zealand was in Round One, 2015 against the Rebels. This will be the Crusaders’ 14th appearance in a Super Rugby Grand final, more than twice as many as any other team (Brumbies, six); they’ve won nine of their previous 13 including their last two on the bounce. This will be the Jaguares’ first foray into a Super Rugby Grand Final; only four teams in Super Rugby history have won the Grand Final on their first attempt (Blues in 1996, Crusaders in 1998, Bulls in 2007, Reds in 2011). The Jaguares have won five of their last six Super Rugby games away from home, including their last three on the bounce. The Crusaders (33.2) and Jaguares (28.9) have scored more points per game than any other teams in Super Rugby 2019. Sevu Reece (Crusaders) bagged a brace of tries against the Hurricanes in the semifinal to take his season tally to 15, just one shy of the Super Rugby record set by Ben Lam last season (16). Guido Petti Pagadizaval (Jaguares) stole a brace of line-outs against the Brumbies in the semi-final to take his season tally to 13, three more than any other player in the competition and more than three times the Crusaders’ best (Scott Barrett, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock – four each).
Margin: 15 points
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan.
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastián Cancelliere.
Date: Saturday, July 6
Venue: Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT; 04.35 Argentina time)
Expected weather: Low, patchy clouds, with a few showers – becoming a fine evening, as southwesterlies ease. High of 11°C and a low of -1°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen
@rugby365com, AAP & AFP
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports