Crusaders brace for unbeaten Brumbies

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With a 50-50 win-loss record in 2023, the Crusaders go into the game under severe injury pressure, losing inspirational lock Sam Whitelock to a broken hand and firecracker wing Sevu Reece, who has a knee injury.

That's on top of an already creaking injury list which includes All Blacks David Havili (shoulder), Will Jordan (migraine condition), Jack Goodhue (groin), Fletcher Newell (foot), Cullen Grace (shoulder) and other experienced contributors from the last few seasons.

Amid all the All Blacks' coaching talk and other Super Rugby issues, it has been forgotten that the Crusaders will have completed games against last year's top four when they run off Orangetheory Stadium on Friday.

Despite all the issues facing the defending champions, the Brumbies face a challenging task. They haven't beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand since 2000, and the Crusaders have won their last 11 Super Rugby games against them.

Of their last 31 games against Australian teams, the Crusaders have won 29, and the bad news for the Brumbies is that both losses were to the Waratahs.

Of the 28 games they have played since 1996, the Crusaders have won 20.

But, if any Australian team is likely to cause the Crusaders problems, it shapes as the Brumbies, who have four wins from their last six games against New Zealand teams, including three consecutive away wins. Before that, they had won only one of 16 away games in New Zealand.

Both teams have a go-to option with their lineout mauls and have scored four tries each by that mode this season, more than any other teams in the competition.

The lineout is a crucial department for both sides, and the absence of Whitelock will deny the home team the best stealer at lineout time. Whitelock has stolen four lineouts this year, twice as many as any Brumbies player.

However, the Brumbies have Nick Frost (24) and Caderyn Neville (23) as the winners of the most lineouts in the competition.

The Crusaders' defence remains a strong point. They lead the competition with 45 dominant tackles this season, 14 more than the Brumbies.

However, the Brumbies have proved the most disciplined side to date, conceding 35 penalties, eight less than the Crusaders have given away.

The season statistics offer some hints of where edges may occur.

The Crusaders average 4.3 tries a game compared to 4 for the Brumbies.

They have carried 113 times compared to 102.5 per game for the visitors.

Carry metres favour the Crusaders 772.7 to 709.6, while they have beaten 25.8 defenders per game compared to 20.3.

The Crusaders have made 175.8 tackles compared to 166.5 and have won 7 turnovers to 6.8. Their scrum success is 95.7 to 81.5.

For the Brumbies, they have a goal-kicking advantage of 81.5 per cent to 75, and they have made 5.3 line breaks compared to 4.3. They have missed fewer tackles, 26.3 to 28, and their tackle percentage is a fraction ahead of the Crusaders.

They have conceded fewer penalties, 8.8 to 10.8, with no yellow cards, while they have conceded few turnovers, 11 to 14.3, and they have a slight advantage in lineout success, 88.4 to 87.8.

The Crusaders will be counting on the support of their home fans to help them lift against a Brumbies side that will rate their chances in the Garden City. Get your tickets HERE.

Elsewhere in round five, Damian McKenzie will celebrate his 100th game for the Chiefs when the side faces the Waratahs at the brand-new Allianz Stadium in Sydney. The action kicks off at 9.35pm NZT on Friday night and the Chiefs will be looking to keep their unbeaten record intact against an improving Waratahs team.

Saturday sees three massive games taking place with the Highlanders kicking off proceedings against the Fijian Drua in Dunedin.

The Highlanders will be buoyed by securing their first win of the season against the Western Force last week but will face a Drua side that will relish the dry, running track at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Grab your tickets HERE for a high-octane clash between two exciting teams.

Last year Moana Pasifika pulled off a famous golden point win over the Hurricanes at Mt Smart Stadium and will be hoping to repeat the dose when they host Ardie Savea’s troops again on Saturday night. Grab your tickets HERE.

The Rebels host the Reds in an all-Australian clash at AAMI Stadium to round out Saturday’s action. Watch live on Sky Sport at 9.35pm.

The final game of the round will be played on Sunday afternoon at Eden Park when the Blues host the Western Force. With a 2-2 record so far in 2023, the Blues will be looking for a commanding performance against the Force to underline their top four ambitions. Get your tickets HERE for what promises to be an exciting afternoon of footy at Eden Park. The game kicks off at 3.35pm.


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