The Super Rugby Aotearoa Grand Final is set to take place on Saturday as the Crusaders host the Chiefs in a battle of old masters against a team that came on strong in the second half of the season and is arguably in better form for this Final.
Crusaders vs. Chiefs
Saturday, May 8 – Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
The Crusaders always looked like being one of the Grand Final teams in the 2021 edition of Super Rugby Aotearoa as they aim to defend the title they won last season. The Chiefs – on the other hand – came from out of nowhere to run down the disappointing Blues who faded hard in the second half of the season and book this match in Christchurch.
The Chiefs – lest we forget – were winless in Super Rugby Aotearoa’s 2020 campaign. They then kicked off this season with back-to-back losses and were rooted to the bottom of the ladder and going nowhere after the first few rounds of play. They have, however, been a revelation since that point, with the ultra-talented Damian McKenzi spearheading an attack that has found the cutting edge to go with its exuberance over the last half of the season.
The Crusaders are the Crusaders. They may have lost some talent over the last couple of years, but it is still a squad loaded with All Blacks – and potential All Blacks – in every position. The winning culture that has been built in Christchurch means that this is a squad that only knows how to win and with their home fans behind them here it is going to be a tough ask for the Chiefs to walk away from Orangetheory Stadium with the trophy in their possession.
The Crusaders pack has been immense again this season and hooker Codie Taylor has been the main beneficiary as he has scored an outstanding seven tries in eight matches. It is the size, skill, and work rate of this pack that makes it so dominant and coach Scott Robertson will look to launch his backs off of his forward platform here. Center Braydon Ennor is a shock inclusion on the bench having not played since tearing his ACL last September and his inclusion in the 23 over Manasa Mataele is the only change from the side that thumped the Blues in their final regular-season outing.
The Chiefs will start McKenzie at fullback in the Grand Final and will hope to be within touching distance of the Crusaders when they switch the dynamic playmaker up to fly-half at some point in the second half. Bryn Gatland gets the start in the No. 10 jumper and he will be looking for his partnership with the dangerous Brad Weber at the base of the scrum to provide headaches for the Crusaders fringe defenders.
The Crusaders have played 24 finals games in Christchurch and have lost exactly zero of those contests. It would take a brave man to bet against them outright, but I do like the Chiefs to play them close and cover the +11.5 spread at 0.90 with BetXChange.