Cape Town - The Crusaders host first-time finalists Jaguares in Saturday’s Super Rugby final in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Worrying news out of the hosts camp is that they will be missing All Black duo Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett, who are both suffering from hand injuries. In fact Crotty’s broken thumb and Barrett’s broken index finger mean they will miss the upcoming Rugby Championship as well.
Nonetheless, the pair are replaced by Mitchell Dunshea who slots in alongside captain Sam Whitelock at lock while Braydon Ennor partners up with the talented Jack Goodhue in the centre.
For the Jaguares, coach Gonzalo Quesada has made some tweaks to his starting line-up. Ramiro Moyano - who came off the bench in their impressive win over the Brumbies last week - will start on the left wing, moving Matias Moroni to the right wing.
In the forwards, flanker Marcos Kremer moves Tomas Lezana to the bench while prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro starts.
In terms of history between the two teams, there’s not much to dig up. They have only played each other twice, with the Crusaders winning both. The most recent encounter was last year, when they won 40-14. However, the Jaguares of 2019 are a different animal.
They have made Buenos Aires a fortress, winning their last four matches at home and seven of their last eight in the competition.
In terms of form for the Crusaders, they are undefeated at home in 30 matches and have lost just twice and are understandably hot favourites to pick up a tenth Super Rugby title on Saturday.
Key for the Jaguares is talismanic captain Augustin Creevy. The hooker continues to prove his worth all over the park, leading the tournament in pilfers with seven, running like centre if afforded the opportunity and showing superb offloading skills. All Black flanker Matt Todd is going to have his hands full dealing with Creevy.
Another key match-up is in the fly-half and inside centre channels. Richie Mo’unga may well have taken the All Blacks number ten jersey off Beuden Barrett's back with his brilliant showing this year. However, with Goodhue on his inside, that channel remains a defensive weak point for the Crusaders.
Running at them will be centre Jerome de la Fuente and pivot Joaquin Diaz Bonilla. But will they actually be running? The Jaguares have favoured kicking from hand to drive for territory, then relying on their lineouts (they are the top ranked side for lineout steals) to get the ball back.
This style of play, if executed poorly, will play into the Crusaders hands, as their backline has proved to be deadly whether it’s in broken play or set piece. Just ask flyer Sevu Reece, who is the fastest player to 15 Super Rugby tries, achieving the feat in just his debut season in just 13 outings.
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 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 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
Substitutes: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastián Cancelliere