Reds coach narrowly favours Crusaders
The defending Super Rugby winning coach is tipping the Crusaders to make their 11th Super Rugby final. But only just.
Reds mentor Ewen McKenzie said the recent form guide swayed his vote to a narrow Crusaders win over the Chiefs at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium tonight, but: "I wouldn't bet the house on it".
With Dave Rennie at the helm, the Chiefs started the season like world beaters. They were nine from 10, on top of the table and cruising.
But of their last six games, they're three and three and one of those losses came at the hands of the Crusaders, in Hamilton three weeks ago.
That all only adds to a slight Crusaders advantage, McKenzie said. Even the home advantage doesn't earn the Chiefs favouritism.
"I don't think that matters as much in New Zealand games," he said.
"And the one team who does travel well and has won playoff games away from home consistently is the Crusaders.
"But, really, they've been a bit up and down, too. That probably makes it a pretty even contest, but I do look at form over time and I think the Crusaders could have it.
"I just think on the form line it'll go that way, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Chiefs won, they've had a great year.
"They are being very well coached and I'm not trying to criticise them, they've had a great season."
There's little secret that the Dan Carter-Aaron Cruden clash in the No 10 jersey will be one to watch but McKenzie said the match is likely to be won not by Carter and Cruden themselves, rather by which side boxed cleverer when it came down to shutting them down.
"I know for us, we look at the source of where they get the ball and what circumstances they get it in and the quality of that ball," he said.
"If you just focus on [Cruden and Carter], they can always just take a step back and give themselves more time, but if you shut down where the ball comes from that can work for you, too."
McKenzie expected the other semifinal - between the Stormers and Sharks in Cape Town Sunday morning (NZ time) - to be more one-sided.
"I think the travel will get [the Sharks]," he said, referring to their journey from the Republic to Brisbane for last weekend's quarterfinal win over McKenzie's Reds, before dashing back to South Africa for this match.
- © Fairfax NZ News