Reds unfazed by Christchurch fortress
July 19, 2013
Sam Whitelock and the Crusaders have lost only once in 16 matches at AMI Stadium © Getty Images
The Crusaders' ominous home advantage at their new AMI Stadium doesn't faze Queensland Reds ahead of their Super Rugby qualifier on Saturday, director of coaching Ewen McKenzie shrugging off the hosts' 15-from-16 record in Christchurch since the venue was renovated after the 2011 earthquake.
The controversial one-point upset by the Hurricanes last year stands alone as a blot on the seven-time champions' copybook, but Queensland are taking heart from the swag of close calls this season. The Hurricanes were unlucky to lose 25-17 at AMI Stadium just last week, while New South Wales Waratahs lost 23-22 before the June break only after Berrick Barnes missed a penalty after full-time. Melbourne Rebels also threatened a massive upset in Christchurch before falling 30-26 in late April.
"It depends on how you want to look at it," McKenzie said of the Crusaders' run at the tightly enclosed 17,500-capacity venue. "You can look at their 15 from 16 record or you can look at each game this year. A lot of teams pushed them down there. We have to think of that side of it."
The Reds are without a win in Christchurch since 1999, but their 15-11 loss in 2012 - after leading 11-9 with 12 minutes to play - also gives them confidence. "All that tells you is you have to nail the small moments," McKenzie said. "There will be one or two key moments and you have to make sure you nail them. "One thing that we've been guilty of, if anything this year, is the amount of times we got to the tryline or over it and not getting a reward. I don't think we've played our best game this year and it would be a pity if we didn't get to that point."
Both the Reds and the Crusaders have rolled out the big guns for a qualifying final expected to be of Test proportions. Wallabies leaders Will Genia and James Horwill have both been cleared of injuries, while All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will make his Crusaders return off the bench.
"The games we've played against Canterbury over the last few years are some of the most intense and biggest games we've played," Howill said. "Both teams bring out the best in each other when we play, and I expect that again."
Follow live text commentary of the Super Rugby qualifier between the Crusaders and the Reds on Saturday, July 20, from 7pm (NZT), 5pm (EST), 7am (GMT)
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview the Super Rugby finals
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson