Good Friday clash set to be a thriller

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Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said, "In a little way this is probably the crescendo to the New Zealand leg before we get on tour with the Aussies," he said.

The Blues' recent success had heightened anticipation for a return to the early years of Super Rugby when the two sides were consistent rivals for top honours.

The statistic that the Blues haven't won in Christchurch since 2004 was a source of pride to the Crusaders.

"It's a long time, isn't it? Every year it's a statistic that comes up. And you want to make it another one through performance and effort. The record is built on a massive amount of edge. Every game has its narrative, and this one is another special in its history.

"Our game needs it, Super Rugby needs it. It's a beautiful thing when these things come together on Easter Friday," he said.

It was a throwback to an era where personalities added to the contests with players like Carlos Spencer, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall and Ali Williams and the twists and turns involved.

However, the game comes with the Crusaders showing the effects of a tough campaign, especially in the middle row.

Zach Gallagher could be due for a start at lock after Quinten Strange suffered a calf injury last week that will keep him out for six to eight weeks, Mitchell Dunshea is out for the season, and Sam Whitelock is not ready to return for another week.

Robertson had no qualms about using the rolling lineout maul that has been the source of discussion this week. The Crusaders liked it, they liked defending it, and it was something that set rugby apart, he said.

The Blues have been more consistent in their performances in 2022 and would have been pleased in beating a tough Chiefs side in Hamilton at the weekend, he said.

"They were superb around the breakdown. They were physical. They challenge you there, they challenge the ref around the breakdown and keep pushing the limits. They're great at it.

"They've got a couple of players in Beauden [Barrett] and Rieko [Ioane] in their backline that can light things right up and can find the balance between playing tough and executing their game plan so they're well rounded," he said.

Robertson said the last three or four weeks had been massive for the side. Every game was like a final.

"A team beats you, and that makes their season. Everything is ramped up. The intensity and physicality of these New Zealand teams playing eight or nine games in a row is hugely physical. Moana Pasifika throws some big bodies at you, so week after week. You've got to win those tight ones and build from there.

"The last three years the intensity has spiked, the running loads, the contacts are keeping more and more and more in these games, and the bodies take a while to come right," he said.  


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