Rugby Union

Super Rugby Final Preview: Waratahs v Crusaders

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Crunch time for the Waratahs in the final of Super Rugby
Crunch time for the Waratahs in the final of Super Rugby.

The Waratahs will hope to make it third time lucky when they hosts the Crusaders in the final of Super Rugby tomorrow at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney. 

Few will argue that the 2014 showpiece is between the best two sides in the competition this season, and when you factor in that they have yet to face each other during the 2014 campaign, the prospect of the clash leaves rugby neutrals with much anticipation ahead of this southern hemisphere premier club rugby final.

Losing record

The Waratahs have not only lost to the Crusaders in the last two finals they played in, they have also lost their last 11-matches against the Kiwi side, just a little reminder of the monumental task they are facing tomorrow against a side that has won the tournament on no less than seven-occasions since it began back in 1996.

However the regular season table toppers are a different prospect to years past, an attack minded team capable of holding firm defensively, as they showcased last week in their 28-6 semi-final victory over the Brumbies.

Attacking flair

The Tahs are blessed with attacking quality in the back, with the scintillating Israel Folau at the heart of some of their best moves all season, the rugby league convert is also the tournaments top try scorer with 12.

Add, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale to the mix and you have a world class quartet that have a clear understanding of each other's games and one that is capable of ripping the heart out of any defence if caught napping.

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Captain Michael Hooper is outstanding at the breakdown and in Wycliff Palu and the raw power Jacques Potgieter, they have a form trio in the pack that will ensure their flair backs will have clean ball the express themselves.

The Crusaders arrive in the final, courtesy of a one-sided 38-6 hammering of the Sharks in Christchurch, sweet revenge for their loss at the hands of the same opponents earlier in the season.

Dominant 

Super Rugby finals are familiar territory for the New Zealanders when you consider this will be their 11th final appearance from the 19 that have been played to date, a pretty impressive statement by the dominant franchise, although it is worth pointing out that they haven't lifted the trophy since that 2008 win against the Waratahs.

Crusaders captain and IRB Player of the Year, Kieran Read, was in breathtaking form last week against the Sharks and for those that think Richie McCaw is tired and ineffective at 33-years of age, then think again.

The New Zealand captain, who has 127-international caps to his name, has plenty left in the tank and remains a truly world class player.

Israel Folau will be the man to stop tomorrow

World class players are something the Crusaders have in abundance. Israel Dagg at 15 gives the visitors plenty of opportunity to attack from deep, and despite Dan Carter playing out of position at 12, the world record points scorer showed last week against the Sharks that he could probably occupy that shirt in most international sides.

Ignore the past history that weighs very much in favour of the Crusaders, as this clash could go either way in what could very well be one of the most thrilling finals ever seen in Super Rugby.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Olofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (captain), Stephen Hoiles, Kane Douglas, Jacques Potgieter, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.

Replacements: Tola Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Will Skelton, Mitchell Chapman, Patrick McCrutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Teqele Naiyaravoro.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Jordan Taufua, Willie Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl.

Topics:
Dan Carter
Australia Rugby
South Africa Rugby
New Zeland Rugby
Rugby Union
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