Super Rugby
Saders' scrum crucial in typical Chiefs thriller
Richard Kelly
February 26, 2015
Greg Growden and Sam Bruce preview Super Rugby Round 3

The unparalleled longevity of the Crusaders and the re-emergence of the Chiefs make their showdown in Hamilton the most appetising Super Rugby game of Round 3.

Plenty has been made of the Chiefs' unbeaten start to 2015 and, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, a strong beginning to Super Rugby is usually a hallmark of the eventual champions. The Crusaders will provide a stern test this week though, and with the New Zealand conference again looking incredibly tight, this local derby is a key fixture for both sides.

The Chiefs: then and now

Though a small data sample, the 2015 Chiefs appear to have surrendered the lion's share of possession in matches; they have, however, upped their clinical edge when it comes to breaking the line. The Chiefs' unbeaten record appears to have a lot to do with strong ball-carrying; their average gain per carry going through the roof. Excellent tackling and aggression without the ball has also paid dividends, while their lineout has started strongly.

Perhaps the most interesting early trend in the Chiefs' game is an increase in their kicking. It is a sign the Chiefs trust their systems without the ball, as well as the qualities of their own back three should the opposition want to engage in a game of kick-tennis. Some of their backs have been in formidable form so far and this may see the Crusaders attempt to keep the ball in hand, and not engage the Chiefs' speedsters with the boot.

 2015 H2H Averages  
RankChiefs CrusadersRank
110Clean Breaks5.57
120Defenders Beaten145
425.5Kicks from Hand16.512
714.5Missed Tackles164
689%Tackling Success %89%5
114Penalties Conceded12.55
714Turnovers Conceded164
67.5Turnovers Won5.511
687%Lineout Success %85%8
41.5Lineout Steals23
1276%Scrum Success %100%1
894%Ruck Success %92%11
615:00Time in Possession (mm:ss)15:034

Dave Rennie's side also boast the top metre-maker in the tournament this year (James Lowe) and the players who have beaten the most defenders (Charlie Ngatai and Damian McKenzie). Lowe and Ngatai also rank highly for clean breaks, propelling their side as the top-ranked club in all three of those categories so far.

And what about the seven-time champions?

For the Crusaders, it has been Robbie Fruean's shift to the wing that has caught the eye; the former centre ranked alongside Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale at the top of the offload charts. He too has been racking up the metres, which makes for an exciting battle between the back threes.

Robbie Fruean has made a big impression on the wing for the Crusaders © Getty Images

Saturday night's clash looks like being an open affair as these two sides rank among the top three clubs for passes and offloads. However, as mentioned earlier, the Chiefs have been kicking the ball away a bit more this year. The Crusaders have limited their kicking thus far and this may suit the Chiefs, even if it limits the involvement of their exciting backs. If the game reverts to a battle of the set-piece, this may spell trouble for the Chiefs whose scrum figures read poorly. The Crusaders, on the other hand, are yet to lose a feed.

Both sides, despite their attacking prowess, are yet to hit their straps when it comes to points-scoring. With no clear favourite at this stage, it could be that we see a typically tense affair on Saturday evening.

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© Opta Stats for ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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