Rumble in the winter fortress – it’s quarter finals time
Well it’s come down to this folks. Fifteen rounds, some huge battles and we’re into the top eight. Finals footy baby, how good.
The Blues and Waratahs battled it out on Friday night, the Chiefs and Reds clash this arvo, and the Crusaders take on Fijian Drua at Orangetheory Stadium here in Christchurch on a wintery Saturday night. Kick off 7.05pm.
With the temperature not expected to tip past 12 degrees and fall rapidly as the sun sets, everyone but the playing 23s will be in their winter woolies. How will the Drua perform in the conditions? Will they favour the home side? Or will the Drua find something extra on their chilly southern trip?
As we count down the last games of the season, we farewell some big names in the Crusaders camp. Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga and Leicester Fainga’anuku are all set to take overseas contracts after 2023, while Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson and Scotty Hansen are both off to the All Blacks to lead the nation.
It’s time to witness the battle, witness the legends, witness the finals. It’s time.
Oli Jager is back in action after several weeks out with an infected cut on his knee. It’s his first start of the season and he is fizzed for it.
Ethan Blackadder is back too, ready to make an impact off the bench. His power and energy on the field often sparks magic so keep your eyes on the No. 20 jersey when he runs onto the grass.
Same with Willi Heinz, back in action and ready to jump in when needed. Watch out for some clean box kicks and smooth offloads from the veteran.
Will Jordan will bring up 50 games in the red and black.
LAST TIME WE MET
Last time we met, we lost. It was hot. It was loud. It was Lautoka. The Drua got one over us in the final phases, and sent the local crowd into a frenzy. For both Drua and Crusaders alike, it was a game for the ages and we’re both better for it. Will Saturday night be the same? Let’s wait and see. Conditions are starkly different, as are the circumstances. Humility restrains us from too often bringing up the 23-0 record we have in home play off games. But facts are facts. Bring on kick off.
Motikai Murray is on debut for the Drua, paired up against Tom Christie who is far from a debutant. The No. 7 jersey is worn with pride on both sides tonight.
The Drua front row, along with 23 other Drua players, have all recently been named in the Flying Fijian national team. Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere and Mesake Doge will come up against Tamaiti Williams, Codie Taylor and Oli Jager in the scrum. Big boys. Big battle.
New-Zealand born Caleb Muntz takes the No. 10 jersey for the Drua, up against Richie Mo’unga in one of his last games for the Crusaders.
Frank Lomani is the Drua halfback – also recently named in the Flying Fijian side – and will square off against Mitch Drummond. What role will these pivotal players have in this quarter final?
Kalaveti Ravouvou and Leicester Fainga’anuku will be the boys in the No. 11 jersey. Speed and agility expected from both, but who could resist some acrobatics from Fainga’anuku in his departing games for the red and black.
Keep your eye on Selestino Ravutaumada for the Drua, the right wing known for his dancing feet. He came through the NZ schools system and was in the Chiefs U18 squad and the NZ Schools Rugby League team. He’ll square off with Dallas McLeod who is in hot form this year.
Will Jordan will get the cheers from the crowd in fullback and for good reason. He’ll cut through defensive lines for fun and pin point his kicks right across the paddock. His opposing number is Ilaisa Droasese, who’s started in 12 of his 13 games for the Drua. He’s scored five tries this season so expect some magic.
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium, Addington, Christchurch
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
On the line: A semi-final berth