James Mortimer 27.Jul.2012Getty Images
For years there was concern over lack of depth or world class cover for Carter, but Cruden has established himself as the key backup, showing throughout the 2012 Investec Super Rugby season that he has his own special qualities.
Some would argue that some of Cruden’s aspects, such as his cheeky running game, surpasses Carter, but to say that anyone is beyond the 87-test cap veteran has little grounding considering his record.
Carter might not have featured in the knockout stages of the World Cup, but he has a host of other awards to further strengthen his resume.
A five-time Investec Tri Nations winner, a three-time Grand Slam tourist, with a further three Super Rugby titles and a 2005 IRB World Player of the Year award to boot.
His understudy Cruden, seven years younger, won a Junior World Player Award in 2009, leading to something of a torrid test introduction in 2010, where the diminutive Manawatu genius looked to initially struggle with the transition to the international stage.
However his game has looked more assured in the last 12 months, adding dimensions such as a better kicking range and a more willing defensive mindset – giving himself the all-round game that may enable him to surpass Carter one day.
But for now Carter, the world record point’s scorer for both test and Super Rugby, looks to be in the same imperious form that had the planet unanimously regard him as one of the finest playmakers in rugby history when in 2005 he ruled unopposed.
Some, like Jonny Wilkinson, deserve more than a passing mention to Carter, considering the two traded the world record for test points for some years, while the Englishmen is regarded as one of the finest number tens to pull on the Red Rose.
Last year, there were some comparisons to Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper, but with great respect to the 2011 Super Rugby winner, he still has some way to go to establish the pedigree and complete game that Carter possesses.
Carter and Cruden will have significant say not only in tonight’s battle, but in whether the Crusaders win title number eight, or the Chiefs their maiden crown.
All Blacks supporters have rested easy knowing that there is class support for Carter, and while Cruden might keep Dan on his toes, the Southbridge maestro wouldn’t have it any other way.
"When your opponents are playing well, and ‘Azza' (Cruden) has been playing extremely well this year, it just makes your work harder on your game," Carter told the Press.