New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders and Argentina’s Jaguares are preparing for a Super Rugby showdown that will be a clash of Test-match proportions in Christchurch next Saturday.
But the Crusaders’ march into the finals may have come at a price, with a question mark over injured All Blacks Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett.
The Crusaders — aiming for a third consecutive title — were made to fight all the way against the Wellington Hurricanes before prevailing 30-26 in Christchurch on Saturday, while the Jaguares made light work of dismissing the ACT Brumbies 39-7 in Buenos Aires.
The final will be a shadow New Zealand-Argentina Test with the Jaguares including 14 Pumas in their run-on side against the Brumbies, while the Crusaders fielded 13 All Blacks.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who played for the red-and-blacks when they first won three Super finals in a row between 1998-2000, believes the final will come down to the top two inches.
“It is the mental side for us now,” he said.
“To be really clear in what we’re going to do game-tactic wise, and then get excited. It is a pretty special opportunity for a lot of us guys.”
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“We will get through so we’re in the best physical nick as we possibly can and, more importantly, our mental condition to have a great night on Saturday,” Robertson said, adding the team would not do any hard training runs this week.
Crotty, the backline general, suffered a suspected broken thumb in the intense semi-final against the Hurricanes while Barrett appeared to have fractured a finger.
Aside from their injuries, prop Joe Moody and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga were nursing sore shoulders, but both are expected to be fit next week — as is battle-scarred flanker Matt Todd.
The Crusaders and Jaguares did not face each other during the regular season this year, but Robertson said they know what to expect after the Argentinians beat the Hurricanes 28-20 in Wellington.
“We did a little bit of homework. We were expecting to play them. We were a few days ahead on it, as you do, you’re always planning.
“They’re tough and they’re brutal. When they toured, we got a good feeling of how good they can be,” Robertson said.
“At the breakdown, the physicality they bring, they’ve got enough Test players in their team to understand how to play at the highest level and (deal with) pressure moments. It’s going to be another hell of a match for us.”
Jaguares coach Gonzalo Quesada admitted he would have preferred to face the Hurricanes in the final, but said he has been preparing his squad to face the Crusaders.
“The Crusaders is based on a great achievement from the scrum and a very solid defence between several qualities. We have been working very hard in those,” he said.