Crusaders could rest players in Blues dead rubber

Crusaders celebrate winning Super Rugby Aotearoa Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

CHRISTCHURCH,10 AUGUST 2020 (COOK ISLANDS NEWS)—Crusaders coach Scott Robertson hasn’t ruled out resting some players against the Blues on Sunday afternoon.

He sure has much to ponder in the coming days, given his battered and bruised team have the Super Rugby Aotearoa title safely tucked away with a round to play.

“It’s a really good question,’’ Robertson said after his team beat the Highlanders 32-22 in Christchurch on Sunday to clinch a fourth title in as many years.

“We haven’t gone too deep into it [selection talk], because we just wanted to get this result sorted.’’

“It’s a balance, because if you chuck too many out your cohesion goes, and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough players that are match fit.’’

It will keep for the coming days, when the 11-times champions regroup at their Rugby Park headquarters for the last week of the season.

The Eden Park fixture against the Blues is practically sold out, with many fans no doubt disappointed the match is effectively a dead rubber.

Of course, the Blues will be desperate to snap a 12-game losing streak against the Crusaders, who have already beaten the Blues twice this year, and haven’t lost to the Aucklanders since 2014.

What’s clear is the red and blacks are almost certain to be without two props – All Blacks loosehead Joe Moody and tighthead Oli Jager.

Moody left the win against the Highlanders after just 14 minutes due to a neck injury, while Jager was taken to Christchurch Hospital for tests after getting blasted by Sio Tomkinson’s shoulder in the second half.

Jager hit the deck hard and was knocked out cold, before he was carted off the park after a lengthy stoppage in play.

There could also be a question mark over Crusaders pivot Richie Mo’unga, whose wife Sophie is due to give birth to the couple’s first baby in the next week or so.

‘’We will discuss it with him, if that’s the right thing…look, we’ll have chat,” Robertson said when asked if his player maker could sit out the game if the baby arrives.

Given the injury toll Super Rugby Aotearoa has taken on the five Kiwi sides, All Blacks coach Ian Foster might prefer it if a few guns do sit next week out.

The Crusaders have already gone the entire campaign without captain Scott Barrett (foot), while David Havili and Cullen Grace (both broken thumbs) and Ethan Blackadder (knee) have missed much of it.

Mo’unga has played all but four minutes of the Crusaders’ seven games, while lock Sam Whitelock has played every minute.

So, Robertson will have to weigh up whether now is a good time to give younger and less experienced players a crack at the Blues, knowing the newly minted Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy is safely stashed at Rugby Park.

Perhaps wing Manasa Mataele, who has left Taranaki and will play for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup this year, will be considered.

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