Franks ready for scrum battle
Sportal.co.nz 26 Jul 2012 Getty Images
The seven-time champions Crusaders have never met the Chiefs in the semi-finals before and they will be away to a team that has never won the competition previously. Their two clashes in the New Zealand conference resulted in a win apiece, the Chiefs winning 24-19 at Napier and the Crusaders prevailing 28-21 at Hamilton.
"We've had two pretty good hit-outs against them. Both games have been physical in all areas and we're expecting the same and even more with it all on the line," Franks said after the Crusaders finished training in Christchurch on Wednesday. They fly to Hamilton on Thursday.
"It's been back and forth as to which forward pack has had the dominance and it's no secret that forward dominance sets up your backs and both teams have got sharp backlines."
Franks is the only change to the Crusaders team which eliminated the Bulls, 28-13, in their quarter-final in Christchurch last Saturday. He replaces younger brother Owen on the tight-head side as coach Todd Blackadder continues the rotation of his three All Blacks props.
Franks believes the Crusaders pack has definitely improved throughout the protracted competition. "Personally I don't believe in peaks in rugby. We've been playing for 19 weeks and isn't like we're building up for the Olympic Games next week where you peak for a one-off.
"You have ups and downs throughout the season and you just hope your downs mean you don't drop too far."
Franks said the Crusaders were not there mentally when the Chiefs dealt to their scrum at their first meeting. "They were really up for it and the next time we made sure we got that [mental side] right. Both teams won't have that excuse of not being mentally right this week.
"It's not going to be all down to the scrums. Sometimes you play a game and there might be 20 scrums but last week I came on for 20 minutes and we didn't have one scrum – there was just one scrum in the second half so we just try and stay focused and balanced in all the areas we need to do well."
Although both teams had a win apiece in their conference clashes this season, the Crusaders have history on their side with 14 wins from 19 matches. Since 2009 the Crusaders have lost only one of six encounters.
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