John Day: Super Rugby 2020 team-by-team preview - Crusaders

Crusaders. Photo credit: Getty

Newshub rugby tragic John Day casts his discerning eye over how the New Zealand teams are shaping up for next week's kick-off.


Titles: 10 (1998,99, 2000, 02, 05, 06, 08, 17, 18, 19)

Last season: First (11-2-3), beat Jaguares in final

Coach: Scott Robertson


Props - Michael Alaalatoa, Harry Allan, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Joe Moody, Isi Tu'ungafasi

Hookers - Andrew Makalio, Brodie McAlister, Codie Taylor

Locks - Scott Barrett, Mitchell Dunshea, Luke Romano, Quinten Strange

Loose forwards - Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Whetu Douglas, Cullen Grace, Billy Harmon, Sione Havili, Ethan Roots, Tom Sanders

Halfbacks - Mitchell Drummond, Ere Enari, Bryn Hall

First-fives - Fergus Burke, Brett Cameron, Richie Mo'unga

Midfield - Braydon Ennor, Inga Finau, Jack Goodhue, Dallas McLeod

Outside Backs - George Bridge, Leicester Fainga'anuku, David Havili, Will Jordan, Manasa Mataele, Fetuli Paea, Sevu Reece

Coach Scott Robertson.
Coach Scott Robertson. Photo credit: Getty


Feb 1 v Waratahs

Feb 8 @Chiefs

Feb 14 @Blues

Feb 21 v Highlanders

Mar 6 v Reds

Mar 14 @Sunwolves

Mar 20 v Hurricanes

Mar 28 @Highlanders

Apr 3 v Blues

Apr 17 @Rebels

Apr 24 v Jaguares

May 2 v Stormers

May 8 @Hurricanes

May 17 @Lions

May 24 @Sharks

May 30 v Chiefs

Biggest loss

Where do you start?  The Crusaders have lost over 800 games of Super Rugby experience with veterans Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Kieran Read and Ryan Crotty all absent in 2020.  It's hard to single out any one of them, but the man they'll miss the most is Sam Whitelock, not only for his playing ability but for his leadership as well.

Biggest gain

Despite the departure of those big names, the Crusaders haven't made any star signings for 2020.  The All Blacks loss is the Crusaders' biggest gain, and you'd have to say coach Scott Robertson staying on is a massive bonus.

Biggest question - Can the Crusaders dominate without a 'Rolls Royce' pack?

The main reason why the Crusaders have won three titles in a row has been their ability to dominate at set-piece.  While the bulk of the backline is still there, the forward pack has been decimated. The Crusaders used to be able to rely on their domination upfront to win them games.  They're going to have to find a different tactic this year.

Key player

With forward dominance not guaranteed, it'll be up to Richie Mo'unga to prove he's just as good without an elite pack in front of him.  But the All Blacks first-five has been brilliant since his debut season in 2016 and there's nothing to suggest he won't step up to the challenge again this year.

Mo'unga. Photo credit: Getty

Who the hell is he?

A name that won't be familiar to Crusaders fans is Ethan Roots.  The North Harbour product had a strong Mitre Ten Cup campaign playing at both blindside flanker and number eight.  The 22 year-old could follow in the footsteps of Ron Cribb and make his name at the Crusaders.

Fearless prediction  

For the first time in four years, Scott Robertson won't be breakdancing at the end of the season. While the Crusaders have one of the most lethal backlines in the competition, their forwad pack, especially the loosies, just don't look experienced enough to be able to come through when it matters most.  I'm picking the Saders to be beaten in the semi-finals.