|Crusaders v Rebels: Saturday 5.35pm (AEST)
at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
|Best Bet: Crusaders -19.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Score After First Place Kick at Goal Crusaders 7-0 ($3.35)
The Crusaders are bristling after losing the Super Rugby competition lead last weekend, but they can remain in contention for top spot with a win over the visiting Rebels, whose slim playoff prospect went down the tubes in Round 15.
The Crusaders will rest captain Kieran Read this week, but they have an able replacement in Jed Brown. All Blacks Luke Romano and Ryan Crotty are rated strong chances of returning this weekend. The Rebels’ backline injury woes in 2016 have continued with the unavailability of Nic Stirzaker and Mike Harris.
The teams’ four matches have been split two wins apiece, including one victory each in the two previous encounters in Christchurch. The Rebels sprung a 20-10 upset at AMI Stadium in Round 1 last year.
The 10-3 Crusaders edged out the Blues in Auckland prior to the international break, but were subdued 23-13 by the Chiefs in Suva last Friday to relinquish their lead in the NZ Conference. The Crusaders are ranked fourth in both attack and defence.
The Rebels, sporting a 6-7 record, went down to the Stormers at home to the tune of 57-31 last weekend. In 12th spot overall, the Rebels have the 12th-best attack and 14th-ranked defence in the competition.
Matt Todd is doing a magnificent job in retired Crusaders legend Richie McCaw’s No.7 jumper, while Rebels captain Sean McMahon is his side’s undisputed trump card.
Stats That Matter
The Crusaders are 8-5 against the start in 2016, while the Rebels are 4-9 ATS this year. The Crusaders are 10-4 (overall and ATS) at home since the start of 2015. The Rebels are 5-7 (overall and ATS) on the road since the start of last season. All four of the teams’ previous meetings have featured margins of 10 points or less. Home sides are 65-48-3 this season (62-55 against the start). Home favourites are 58-20 overall and 45-33 ATS in 2016.
The Rebels threw in the towel defensively against the Stormers, conceding seven tries in their own backyard. That’s a danger sign coming up against a ruthless Crusaders outfit brimming with forward grunt and attacking firepower out wide. With plenty on the line for the hosts and a bonus-point of the utmost importance, expect the Crusaders to get the job done in emphatic fashion.
The Way It’s Shaping
Crusaders by 22
Crusaders -19.5 ($1.90)