Brumbies up against it in Crusaders clash
RUGBY UNION: The Crusaders have not won a Super Rugby season-opener in Christchurch in seven years.
The seven-time Super Rugby champions might not have a better chance to reverse that trend against a Brumbies team stripped of quality players through illness and player movement.
Coach Stephen Larkham will be without Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore, who is now with the Reds, Matt Toomua, who is plying his trade in English rugby with Leicester, and Christian Lealiifano, who is still recovering from treatment after being diagnosed with leukemia.
Perhaps the biggest loss of all is Wallabies back-row star David Pocock, who is missing the Super Rugby season as he is taking a sabbatical from the game.
On paper the Crusaders will be big favourites to win this game at AMI Stadium.
Coach Scott Robertson's starting side will include eight All Blacks, including captain Sam Whitelock and Israel Dagg, who will play his 100th Super Rugby game.
Two more Kiwi internationals, Codie Taylor and Wyatt Crockett, will be on the reserves bench.
Fullback Dagg believes the Brumbies - even without Pocock - will stick to the formula that helped them qualify for the quarter-finals last year, when they used lineout drives to good effect.
"For sure, we have spoken about that (the Brumbies' rolling mauls) - that they are team that likes to suffocate the opposition and trap them down in their own goal lines and their own areas," he said.
"It is about us not giving away dumb penalties and playing at the right end of the field."