Reds will make us pay for drop in intensity: Crusaders

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Crusaders captain Matt Todd says the defending Super Rugby champions head to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night knowing the hungry Reds will make them pay if they drop the intensity that has led to a record-breaking winning streak.

The Crusaders head into the clash missing eight All Blacks players and on guard after watching a Reds team with a new-found edge come close to a massive upset of the Highlanders last week.

"The physicality of the Reds is very impressive and their ability to punish mistakes from anywhere on the field," All Blacks flanker Todd said.

"They score some tries from long range and we have to be on our toes because they can hurt you from anywhere.

"Even when they got down a couple of times (against the Highlanders), to come back shows they have real character and belief in the team that no matter the situation, they're still in it and they obviously back their systems that they know can work and get results.

"We know we'll have to put in a good 80-minute performance on Saturday."

Matt Todd has been ruled out of the third Bledisloe. Photo: Getty ImagesWith some of New Zealand's top talent benched under the All Blacks' World Cup resting policy, the Reds will be out to make a mark in their first home game of the season.

"But we're more than confident with the squad we've got," Todd said.

"We know some of them haven't played heaps over the last couple of years but they've still been in the environment they've been training well and it's exciting to see those opportunities taken."

Reds captain Samu Kerevi knows his men are up against an outstanding outfit given the Crusaders' record-breaking winning streak.

"They're an unbelievable team, they've proven it throughout the years and how consistent they've been winning championships and games," Kerevi said.

"But they've got two legs, we've got two legs, they're human, they can make mistakes, we can make mistakes.

"This is about who can handle that pressure in the game and on any day we'll back ourselves to go up against the giants.

"It's an awesome test for us."

Consistency of style as well as performance has been key for the Crusaders and the Reds are determined not to let them get into a groove on Saturday.

Kerevi said it was fine to respect the Crusaders' record but the Reds could not be caught suffering a case of stage fright at Suncorp.

"When you play them sometimes, you just admire them," he said.

"We've got to respect what they've done but we've got to be able to give it back to them.

"They physicality's got to be up there and we've got to make it uncomfortable for them as much as they make it uncomfortable for us.

"That's the important (message) that Thorny (coach Brad Thorn) got through this week, that we want to make it uncomfortable."

Kerevi was outstanding against the Highlanders last week in combination with boom colt Jordan Petaia and their performances did not go unnoticed by the Crusaders.

"They are very dangerous ball runners and creators, so we'll have to be defensively smart there and make it as difficult as we can to get the ball out there and the ball they do get, make sure that it's when we're set -- not give them that turnover ball or loose ball," Todd said.

"We've got a good plan there and the challenge for us is to execute that plan."

Petaia faces a test against Crusaders livewire Jack Goodhue and will not fly under the visitors' radar.

"He was very impressive last week and every time he got the ball he created something," Todd said of Petaia.

"For a young bloke, he's really powerful and a very strong runner, so he's someone we'll have to contain or he'll hurt us."

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has also watched the rise of Petaia with interest.

"I think that the quality of some of the young men that have come through, like Jordy Petaia was exceptional, just a couple of years out of school and he looks a pretty special player," Robertson said.

"He looked extremely powerful, a great athlete and that was complimented by getting some good ball."

Jordan Petaia is earning praise for his efforts at centre for the Reds. Photo: Rugby AU Media/Stuart WalmsleyKerevi is aware of the hype around his young centre partner but is detmined to look after his fellow Brisbane State High School graduate.

"The wonder kid, we're calling (Petaia) around here and he hates it, he's a real humble kid, so he doesn't think about that stuff too much which is what I've loved about him since the first day I met him," Kerevi said.

"He's a really humble kid with a great family who supports him.

"I've met his dad a couple of times and he's an awesome guy, even coming down to see him possibly get his debut in Wallaby camp.

"The support of someone like that, I think, keeps Jordy grounded, which is something that's really good for a young guy like him who can reach the heights of footy.

"He's just taking each session in his stride, trying to get better, asking a lot of questions.

"The combination's working well but it's only been one week and we like to think of it as a State high connection.

"We're just working hard to really excel for this week."

 

The Reds take on the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, March 2, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT (6:45pm local) LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.