Super Rugby Pacific: Blues primed to add to Crusaders' misery in Eden Park grudge match

The Blues realise they have a golden chance to break the Crusaders' stranglehold on a very one-sided rivalry, when they square off at Eden Park on Saturday.

The red and blacks – as they do with most Super Rugby Pacific sides – boast a lopsided record against the Auckland-based side, winning 18 of their past 19 matches against the northerners.

The Crusaders touch down in Auckland on the back of a start so out of character for the perennial champions it almost seems bizarre. Their well publicised 0-4 beginning to their title defence is their worst opening in the proud franchise's history, with just a solitary bonus point sparing them from the bottom spot on the ladder. Even the Prime Minister has felt compelled to weigh in on it.

And with the Blues running on to their beloved Eden Park HQ for the first time this year, the stage seems ideally set for the Crsuaders' misery to run even deeper into unprecedented territory.

Blues hooker Kurt Eklund realises their old foes are ripe for the picking.

"The boys are pretty fizzed," Eklund told Newshub.

"Week five and it's our first home game. What better team to against than the Crusaders?

Akira Ioane in action against the Crusaders last season.
Akira Ioane in action against the Crusaders last season. Photo credit: Getty Images

"There's a rich history between them and us. They always seem to do a number on us, so the boys are pretty pumped to hopefully get one back."

But the wounds from last year's semi-final demolition in Christchurch are still fresh in the minds of the Blues.

That abysmal 52-15 pasting at AMI Stadium represented another dark chapter for the Blues against the Crusaders, particularly in the higher stakes contests. You only have to rewind a year further for their highly anti-climactic Super Rugby Pacific final defeat on home soil, when the Blues were shutout of the contest from the first blast of the whistle.

Plainly speaking, the Blues have been put through the ringer too many times by the Crusaders to be approaching this contest with anything but the utmost caution.

"They've had some pretty close games," Eklund notes, referring to losses by less than five points to the Chiefs, Waratahs and Hurricanes.

"You can never write them off. I'm sure there's a lot of people talking about what their record is at the moment, but as soon as you start worrying about that type of stuff then you can start to slip a little bit."

A changing of the guard at the Crusaders, highlighted by the departure of new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson, as well as a lengthy injury list that includes key players such as Will Jordan, Scott Barrett and Braydon Ennor have combined to remove some of the aura surrounding the seven-time champions.

Their struggles have also seen a shake up atop the Super Rugby Pacific standings, which Eklund believes has made for an altogether more intriguing tournament.

"It is a little bit weird I suppose," said Eklund, weighing in on the Crusaders dwelling in the cellars. "But I think it makes for an exciting competition.

"There's a few teams pushing the teams that would usuaally be at the top. It makes it a lot more exciting."

While the Blues sit in fourth place with three wins and a loss, their performances have been far from convincing, most recently accounting for the Waratahs in an arm wrestle in Sydney.

As the saying goes, big matches are won upfront – and Eklund says this weekend will be no different, confident his cohorts in the pack are primed to step up to the plate.

"There's always that focus on the forward pack and they pride themselves on having a pretty good one over the past few years," he said.

"That's an area we really need to step up. That's probably a big area of growth for us and if we can assert a bit of dominance there it should help us.

"We're going to take them on. Up the guts and into them."