For the Super Rugby Christchurch Crusaders, there is a good news – bad news scenario that has come to our attention.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Crusaders will go into their first game of the 2018 Super Rugby competition against the Hamilton Chiefs at AMI Stadium with 18 players on the roster that have been invited at one time or another to play for the big time All Blacks.
On the negative side, the Crusaders could be left with some serious gaps in the line when All Blacks camps intrude on the Super Rugby fixture. No only could this affect the Crusaders’ preparations, but they have also agreed to rest Test players on some weekends.
So, succinctly stated, they have superb depth, but may not be fully able to take best advantage of that depth.
Along with that depth, of course, goes a wealth of experience. Not even the Italian defection of Whetu Douglas has made much of a hole in the Crusaders’ back row.
There is also a culture of success and high expectations, as the Crusaders have more Super Rugby titles than any other team, along with records for most points and most tries in a game and most points and most tries over an entire season.
Their list and other factors have led bookies Ladbrokes to make them 7.5-point favourites for Friday’s game.
The casualty list of the Crusaders could form the core of an entire squad. Most of the wounded will be back by sometime in April, including Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Tom Sanders and Israel Dagg. Tim Perry could be back in the early rounds.
A poll of fans suggests that the Blues will sit atop the New Zealand conference this year, followed by the Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
France is coming in June for three internationals, meaning that the French will be supplying a Kiwi homecoming of sorts, but the Crusaders may see some of their deep list of All Blacks returning to Super Rugby a bit the worse for wear.