Live updates: Super Rugby Pacific - Crusaders v Chiefs at Christchurch's Apollo Projects Stadium

  • 29/03/2024

Click here to refresh the page

6:34pm - Late change to the Crusaders, with acting captain Mitch Drummon dropping out of the squad, Noah Hotham taking the No.9 jersey and Willie Heinz onto the bench. Flanker Tom Christie will take the captaincy.


Kia ora, good evening and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Crusaders v Chiefs Super Rugby Pacific clash at Christchurch's Apollo Projects Stadium.

The home side find themselves in unfamiliar territory, winless from their opening five games of the season and bottom of the table with just a couple of bonus points to their name.

The defending champions were always headed for a rebuild, with the departure of coach Scott Robertson to the All Blacks and a core of their experienced stars heading offshore for big paydays, before they retire, but their cause hasn't been made any easier by a mounting injury toll that has now claimed acting skipper David Havili.

With fulltime captain Scott Barrett already on the sidelines, veteran halfback Mitch Drummond inherits the poisoned chalice, with Dallas McLeod moving into the starting midfield.

A measure of their misfortune is the decision by Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan to rest arguably his best player - first-five Damian McKenzie - for a Grand Final rematch. Instead, rookie Josh Jacomb will steer the cutter in his first Super Rugby start.

With four wins from five starts, the Chiefs sit second on the championship table, behind the unbeaten Hurricanes.

Join us at 7pm for kickoff.

TAB Odds: Chiefs $1.55, Crusaders $2.60, Draw $18


'It's about dealing with the reality': Crusaders embrace unfamiliar underdog status

The Crusaders seem to have come to terms with their newfound and very unfamiliar status as Super Rugby Pacific battlers, as they prepare for a rematch with the Chiefs.

The champions' winless start through the opening five rounds has been the dominant talking point of the competition to date, with pundits and rugby fans alike - at least, the non-Cantabrians - savouring the strong sense of schadenfreude you'd expect when such a dominant franchise falls off the pace.

In an admission that would've seemed almost sacrilegious over the past decade-plus of Crusaders superiority, halfback Mitchell Drummond says the team are "100 percent" embracing the role of underdogs.

"It's about dealing with the reality, which is the position we're in, and then moving forward from there," said Drummond. "It's obvious the position we're in and I don't think many people expect us to win on Friday, which is a position we're loving."  

Drummond admits both he and the wider team are feeling "under pressure", which means there's been a much greater focus over the past week on ensuring their mental mindstate is taken care of.

"It's making sure that everyone is okay, as people," he said. "It's one thing to be in the position we're in as footy players, but the main thing is we don't want to affect guys as human beings.  

"The reality of what happens inside these four walls and outside the green fence is there's a lot going on, and the more our young guys and our leaders listen to that, the harder it becomes.

"I've been there in the past, when you read things you shouldn't and it's a tough place to be, but I think we've done a really great job of sticking internal and just really making sure we're looking after each other as people."

The Crusaders faced the Chiefs in the opening round of the competition, when they fought back from a 17-point halftime deficit to inch in front, but were thwarted by two late penalties in arguably their best performance of the year to date.

The trajectory of the two since that night at Hamilton have been in stark contrast, with the Chiefs entrenched in second place on the ladder, looking down from a great height at the cellardwelling Crusaders.

The Crusaders reflect on defeat by the Blues.
The Crusaders reflect on defeat by the Blues. Photo credit: Getty Images

While they're at long odds at Apollo Projects Stadium, a win over the surging Chiefs would rapidly change their perception.

"We've dealt with the reality and now it's about moving forward to the opportunity that we've got on Friday," Drummond added. "The mindset is the same - we're turning up Friday ready to throw everything at it.  

"It's a great opportunity for us to have a crack at one of the top sides in the competition. We're at home, in front of our people, and we've got a chance to show people what we're about again."

Feeling the full force of the furnace is new head coach Rob Penney, who has endured a nightmare tenure, since taking the reins from Super Rugby's most prolific coach and new All Blacks boss Scott Robertson. Despite his injury-ravaged team's struggles, Penney insists their target remains firmly set on a place in the post-season.

Clinch a place in the playoffs, get some players healthy and they're capable of hanging with any side, Penney believes.

"For us, the goalposts haven't moved," said Penney. "Obviously, every week, we make it a bit harder on ourselves.

"We've just got to cement a place in the playoffs and we feel as though we're competitive with anybody, and on our day, we can beat anybody. We've just got to get ourselves there.

The threshold over the past two seasons for playoffs qualification has been 23 and 24 points respectively, meaning the Crusaders probably need to win at least five of their next nine matches to advance, starting with Friday's rematch of last year's final.

"The Chiefs have progressed," says Penney. "They're a team brimming with confidence and we've gone the other way, so it's a real challenge for us."