It’s the last dance, the face off, the final swansong of the round robin for 2023 and what better way to close it out than a good ol’ fashioned Christchurch v Wellington showdown.
Some will say there’s been a lack of hype or showcasing of rivalry in the lead up to this one – and perhaps that comes down to Kiwi humility rather than Aussie bravado, or a respect between what are essentially mates and brothers in arms – but there’s no doubt that any match between these northern and southern rivals brings the heat, the aggression, the strength in contact and the ferocity to win.
The Crusaders are in Wellington this weekend to face the Hurricanes at Sky Stadium, kick off 7.05pm Saturday 3 June.
It’s the first time they face the Hurricanes this season and have found themselves in second place on the table, while the black and gold sit a few pegs down at fifth.
Louie Chapman is latest debutant to potentially taste minutes this weekend, looking to come off the bench as halfback in place of Mitch Drummond. The youngster is a product of the Canterbury schools and Crusaders Academy system and has his sights set on a long Crusaders career.
Sam Whitelock this week announced his plan to link up with family in France following this season, so he’ll be taking in every metre gained and tackle made as he counts down his last games for the franchise he joined in 2010.
It’s also looking like John Afoa’s second and last game for the Crusaders after flying back from Europe to bolster the front row stocks. Go well John mate, it’s been great to have you in the environment.
Will Jordan’s back in fullback, which is awesome. Right? How good.
LAST TIME THEY MET
They played the Hurricanes twice last year, taking both Ws but not always comfortably. An early season brawl ended 42-32 to the red and black, the 9 April bout closer at 24-21. Jordan touched down within eight minutes in the April game – will he do it again? Haven’t checked the odds but they’ll be slim.
Dane Coles and Codie Taylor – get the deep heat and arnica out medical teams, these guys will be checking each other all night in their respective No 2. jerseys.
Hurricanes front rower Tyrel Lomax’s dad John Lomax would’ve been playing league across the ditch the same time John Afoa was debuting in union on this side of it. Now they face off in the scrum. How’s that for some inter-generational competition.
Christian Lio-Willie is facing off against the in-form and no-doubt World Cup destined Ardie Savea in the No. 8 jersey. A huge clash.
Meanwhile, Jack Goodhue will look across the paddock at Jordie Barrett – both also eyeing selection for the French business trip.
Kini Naholo has been in hot form, but will it match that of Leicester Fainga’anuku in the opposing No. 11. These guys will be dancing the left sidelines ready to put on a show before finals footy.
Of course we’ll see Jordie and Scott Barrett eyeing each other up across the backyard playing field that is now Sky Stadium. No tips shared between Barrett brothers this week though, as Scott said he and Jordie only exchanged one text message in the lead up to this one. It’d seem even brotherly love is foregone when regional feuds are on the line.
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
On the line: Points, pride, bragging rights