Auckland versus Canterbury. Blues versus Crusaders. Town versus country. Blue versus red. With nearly 30 years of history behind both franchises we square off again.
Gather the generations, the fans, the critics. Dig out your jerseys and paint your faces. The Blues travel to Christchurch for a Semi Final bout on Friday night versus the Crusaders.
It’s the third time we face the Aucklanders this season and the second time at home. We took out both Round 4 (34-28) and Round 12 (15-3), but not without a contest.
The boys in blue are some of the fiercest competitors in the comp, especially when faced with knockout footy. And the Crusaders have a huge record of home success behind them. The impasse will fall on Friday – who’s heading for the final?
We’re expecting a big crowd in for this one, with plenty happening around Addington on Friday and car parking at a premium. If you’re coming to the game, get to the stadium early. Park and Ride options available: info here.
The Crusaders field the same starting XV as last week in a sign of strength and consistency. Eight All Blacks will take the field at kick off.
Ethan Blackadder and Sam Whitelock remain sidelined by injury but will be the first ones to say the team facing the Blues is full strength.
This could be our last home game of the season, whether we win or lose. Win and we’re into the final, the venue of which is determined by the Chiefs.
LAST TIME WE MET
We played the Blues about a month ago, in front of a sellout crowd at Orangetheory Stadium in Round 12. We shut them out for only the third time in Blues’ history, scoring a try per half – Quinten Strange late in the first and Leicester Fainga’anuku early in the second.
We were on the right side of possession and territory stats, especially in the first half, and the score would’ve been higher had the Blues not made 188 tackles.
Everything resets in finals footy. It’s a blank slate as we await kick off.
Tamaiti Williams and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Codie Taylor and Ricky Riccitelli, Oli Jager and Nepo Laulala.
With more than 480 Super Rugby games between them, and plenty of history (Laulala played 34 games for the Crusaders), the front row will be huge on Friday.
Christian Lio-Willie comes up against Hoskins Sotutu playing his 50th game for the Blues.
Mitch Drummond will look across at Finlay Christie at halfback, both looking to control the breakdown and distribute quality ball.
Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett, two of the best No. 10s in the world, are both starting on Friday. Worth the ticket right there to see these two in action.
All eyes will be on the No. 11 jerseys, with Caleb Clarke and Leicester Fainga’anuku looking to set the world on fire. Try-scoring and line-breaking warriors both, expect acrobatics and points from these two.
Equally exciting will be Dallas McLeod and Mark Talea on the right wing. Talea has been in scintillating form, while McLeod has thoroughly earnt his spot in the starting XV.
Braydon Ennor comes up against Rieko Ioane who plays his 100th cap for the Blues.
Will Jordan. Zarn Sullivan. Fullbacks with speed and excitement in their veins. Jordan just notched up his 50 for the Crusaders and will look to make an immediate impact.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Assistants: Ben O’Keeffe, James Doleman)
Kick off: 7.05pm, Friday 16 June, 2023