The Crusaders are making the long trip to Western Australia this week and I must say that I don’t think the home team even has a snowball’s chance in hell to trip the 7 time champions on this occasion. This might sound a bit cocky, especially given the fact that out of the four times these two went face to face in Perth, the Force have actually won one and drawn another.
But all that aside, the Force haven’t come close to resembling a winning side, they even lost to the rookie Kings – probably something they can easily be forgiven for as one that day I think PE’s pride would’ve given any team a run for their money in front of all the fired up supporters at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Enough history, though, the Force are destined to come up short against the fierce Kings forwards and without quality front-foot ball, it doesn’t matter how enigmatic the guys in the backline are. There are plenty of recognised names up front and I’ve been most impressed by young Angus Cottrell, who is very much a rookie himself, but has already made it clear that he thrives in contact situations, always presenting a threat at the breakdown. A name we all know is that of fearless attacking winger Alfie Mafi, the leading try scorer at the end of the last round, and he’ll be keen to reclaim that position after Henry Speight drew level by dotting down for the Brumbies earlier today. The 20-year-old Kyle Godwin has been a breath of fresh air playing at inside center lately, taking a backseat to the hot-and-cold Sias Ebersohn. They might have a handful of useful and opportunistic players, but I seriously doubt they’ll come away unscathed after this battle.
Key Player for the Force: Kyle Godwin
Where do you begin when analyzing a quality side like the Crusaders, probably by listing the amount of playmakers not in the line-up – the likes of Sam Whitelock, Matt Todd, Zac Guildford (bench), Dan Carter and Kieran Read. The truly astonishing thing is that they have plenty more of those that are dead set to destroy the Force. Israel Dagg recently returned from injury, itching to add some 5-pointers to his name, whilst Tom Marshall ha been exceptionally devastating with ball in hand. This is a chance for the usual bench-warmers to make their mark, and there will be a lot of eyes on Dominic Bird – the tallest member of the Saders squad, an extremely talented line-out technician and one of the shiniest stars from last year’s IRB Junior World Championship – and Tyler Bleyendaal who has a pair of gigantic boots to fill in the absence of Carter and although he’s shown glimpses of the talent that he is, but he’s still got some way to go before he’ll be an international contender. Whilst one Whitelock is rested, there are three others to contend with, stand-in captain George Whitelock being in sublime form – he is a quality leader and his incredible work rate makes him indispensable. In midfield, they have Ryan Crotty and Robbie Fruean, two highly skilled individuals that feed of each other’s brilliance.
Key Player for Crusaders: Israel Dagg
It is not calling the winner in this one that’s giving me a headache, but rather the margin. The Crusaders should easily come away with five points here and their defense is significant of their success, eyeing their 8th title and first under the reign of Todd Blackadder.
Gagga say Crusaders by 19.
by Jackie Smit