Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021 will crown its champion at a sold-out Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday night when the Crusaders take on the Chiefs in an epic champions versus underdogs battle.
The Crusaders are the reigning champions after they secured the 2020 title by beating the Highlanders 32-22 in last year's competition, which came about as a response to the closing of New Zealand's borders as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Then there was no final but this year that oversight has been remedied and we have a good old fashion tussle to end our local season before the trans-Tasman super rugby competition begins.
It is no surprise to see the four-time super rugby champions in the finals again as they have topped the competition the whole season. However, it is the tale of the underdogs that everyone loves to get behind, and that role is filled by the Chiefs this season.
The Chiefs have had the cards stacked against them this season, after going 0-8 last year and losing the first three games of this season under a stand-in coach for Warren Gatland in interim coach Clayton McMillan. But they have worked wonders to turn around their season and are deserved finalists.
McMillan told superrugby.co.nz their aim is to make sure they turn up and turn on for this final, "The only thing that will let us down is if we don't front and give the best and we go into our shell... but I doubt that is going to happen," he said.
"They know that and they've referred to as us scrappers and we'll turn up as brawlers."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson says his team is looking forward to the challenge and determined to put in a finals-worthy performance.
"We've prepared well and enjoyed the week together, this is a team that really cares and will work hard for one another on Saturday night," he told superrugby.co.nz.
The Crusaders have never lost a finals game at home, according to superrugby.co.nz, having played 24 finals games in Christchurch, including six grand finals.
The Chiefs will no doubt be only too happy to re-write the record books, "I’ve seen plenty of upsets in the past and you might see one next week,” McMillan told superrugby.co.nz last week.
Kick-off is at 7:05pm.
Crusaders: 1. George Bower 2. Codie Taylor (VC) 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Scott Barrett (C) 5. Samuel Whitelock 6. Ethan Blackadder 7. Sione Havili Talitui 8. Cullen Grace 9. Mitchell Drummond 10. Richie Mo'unga 11. George Bridge 12. David Havili (VC) 13. Leicester Fainga'anuku 14. Sevu Reece 15. Will Jordan Reserves: Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams, Oliver Jager, Mitchell Dunshea, Tom Sanders, Bryn Hall, Dallas McLeod, Braydon Ennor
Chiefs: 1. Aidan Ross 2. Samisoni Taukei'aho 3. Angus Ta'avao 4. Tupou Vaa'i 5. Mitchell Brown 6. Pita Gus Sowakula 7. Lachlan Boshier 8. Luke Jacobson 9. Brad Weber (C) 10. Bryn Gatland 11. Etene Nanai-Seturo 12. Alex Nankivell 13. Anton Lienert-Brown 14. Jonah Lowe 15. Damian McKenzie Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Sione Mafileo, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Zane Kapeli, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Rameka Poihipi, Chase Tiatia