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Crusaders' impeccable record at stake in Super Rugby semi showdown

In 27 years of Super Rugby, the Crusaders have played 26 knockout games at home and never been defeated.

Image: Photosport/Martin Hunter/INPHO

THE WAIKATO CHIEFS must defy history if they are to beat the Canterbury Crusaders in Christchurch in the opening Super Rugby semi-final on Friday.

The Crusaders are the most successful team ever in the southern hemisphere club competition and have been invincible playing sudden-death matches on home turf.

In 27 years of Super Rugby, the 12-times champions have played 26 knockout games at home and never been defeated.

The second semi-final, on Saturday, features the Auckland Blues and ACT Brumbies, two sides looking to revive their glory days when they dominated the championship in its formative years.

The Chiefs have also had past Super Rugby success, winning the competition in 2012 and 2013, and showed ominous signs of a revival when they edged the Crusaders 24-21 in Christchurch this year.

But that was during the regular season and Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said that scoreline has loomed large in talk this week.

scott-robertson-and-brad-thorn-after-the-game Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

“It’s a firm reminder that a team like that on their day can test anyone,” said Robertson, who will be marking his 100th game in charge of the Crusaders.

“Any Kiwi team can effectively have their moments that can change games. We’ve reminded each other from the last game.”

The two teams feature 21 All Blacks between them, including Crusaders locks Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett against the Waikato pair Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i.

Barrett said there will be no love lost between the Test teammates.

“It’s two (sets of) All Blacks against each other, so it’s a huge battle,” he said.

“We’re both competitive teams. Often in the heat of the moment a few words might be added, hopefully with a smile.”

The Brumbies, seeking their first Super Rugby title since 2004, head to Auckland hoping to erase the memory of their heartbreaking loss to the Blues in the regular season when Beauden Barrett snatched victory with a drop goal after the final hooter.

“We took a lot of lessons from that. Obviously we’ve got to be more disciplined,” Brumbies fly-half Noah Lolesio said.

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noah-lolesio-takes-a-kick Brumbies' Noah Lolesio takes a kick. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“We’re definitely full of confidence but we know we’ve got a hard task.”

The Blues, with a star-studded side headlined by a backline combination of Barrett, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Rieko Ioane, are favoured by bookmakers to go all the way.

They have lost only once this season and are currently on a club-record 13-match winning streak, but coach Leon Macdonald was shutting out what he called “outside noise”.

“It’s really important we stick with what’s worked for us, and that’s been a day-by-day focus,” he said.

“It’s going to be survival of the fittest. Three brutal playoff games is going to take its toll on every team, there are going to be injuries and guys will need to be ready to go.”

A win for the Blues will see next week’s final played in Auckland.

Should the Brumbies be victorious then the final will be hosted by the winner of the Crusaders-Chiefs match.

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