Reds eye 25-year first as Crusaders welcome in Halfpenny

Fri, May 3, 2024, 4:11 AM
by AAP

A Welsh rugby great will give the Crusaders a new look as the Queensland Reds attack a very familiar problem in Christchurch.

The opportunity is there for the Reds (4-5) to end a losing streak in the city dating back to 1999 on Saturday, the Crusaders (2-7) enduring rare hardship in a tournament they have long dominated.

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But they're 2-2 since a 0-5 start and, currently 10th, loom as potential party-poopers for finals-bound outfits if they're able to slide into the top eight.

British and Irish Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny's availability is another bonus, the 101-Test Wales great named to make his Super Rugby Pacific debut after a pectoral muscle injury required pre-season surgery.

Lock Scott Barrett will captain the Crusaders with fellow All Black David Havili switching from centre to five-eighth.

"It's about not being hijacked by where they are on the ladder," Reds coach Les Kiss said.

"Every team will be very wary of what the Crusaders can offer."

Kiss's side has beaten the Chiefs and Highlanders and lost narrowly to the front-running Hurricanes and Blues.

"We go there with the right business mind; very direct, disciplined, be sure we still bring our style of game into play," he added.

"We've got our guard up, have put in the necessary prep to deal with them, hopefully. But we need to make sure we do the things that make us hum as well."

The Reds will welcome influential flanker Fraser McReight back from a two-game suspension while breakout winger Tim Ryan has retained his place after a scintillating hat-trick on debut.

His heroics weren't enough though in a last-gasp heartbreak at home to the Blues.

It was the Reds' fourth tight defeat in a season littered with close calls, the biggest of their five losses just a nine-point margin against the Western Force.

They have a competition-best seven bonus points and their 57-point differential is 22 points healthier than the third-placed Brumbies, who are 7-2.

"How does that happen," Kiss mused of their for-and-against.

"The losses have all be very tight; we're in the hunt and we know these margins are important to close and get on top of.

"It's an area we know we can grow in. Is that inconsistency? Or are we consistently getting closer to the mark?

"We will address the areas to improve but make sure we don't stray down the cul de sac of doom."

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