Some bookies have got the Crusaders as 5:1 favourites to clinch their 10th Super Rugby title in Saturday’s final, a fact that will motivate the Jaguares to make an indelible impression on the competition by denting the Kiwi dynasty.
Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch is the venue for the 2019 decider, a very important factor according to the archives.
In 23 Super Rugby finals, the road team has only won on seven occasions. The Crusaders account for four of those, beating the Blues, Highlanders and Brumbies in succession between 1998 and 2000, and taming the Lions at Ellis Park in 2017. Those victories against the Brumbies and Lions also mark the only time in competition history that a team has won the final on foreign soil.
Make no mistake, the Crusaders have dominated this competition like no other, winning more finals than any other team has even contested.
Waning novelty won’t be a factor when the Crusaders strap up for their 14th final because they’re hunting a third successive title to match the feats of the 2000 Crusaders, led by Todd Blackadder.
The Jaguares, however, are no strangers to bucking the trend. Added to the competition in 2016, Argentina’s Super Rugby contenders have grown season on season without any sign of slowing down.
A 4-11 record in 2016 improved to 7-8 in 2017. They logged a winning record in 2018 (9-7), and then went 11-5 this year to host their first playoff match, beating the Chiefs before downing the Brumbies in the Buenos Aires semi-final.
Though the Jaguares head into their first final having failed to beat the Crusaders in either of the two previous meetings between these teams, they are riding a seven-match win streak.
The All Blacks have won back-to-back world championships, but it wasn’t too long ago when the Kiwi mindset was deemed to be fragile following their ambush exits from the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.
Both teams, packed with Test players, will be keenly aware of the importance of this final in the context of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
If it’s possible that the weight of expectation which comes with the favourites tag could derail the Crusaders, this final would qualify more than any other before it.
A fast start will be key to ramping up the pressure on the trailing team, with seven of the last nine finals having been won by the side leading at halftime.
The neutral fan will be pulling for the Jaguares as they head into a crunch final with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Buckle up!
CRUSADERS: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Bench: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan
JAGUARES: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (c), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Bench: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)
Kickoff: Saturday, 9.35am (SA time)