It might be a high stakes sudden-death contest, but the Crusaders are expecting their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Lions in Johannesburg to be another free-scoring affair.
The round-robin match between the two teams at the same venue in April produced a points-fest, the Crusaders winning 43-37 after touching down for six tries of the game’s 10 tries, with Ryan Crotty batting a hat-trick.
Skipper Kieran Read is preparing for much the same on Saturday (Sunday am AEST).
“I think there will be some points scored,” he said.
“Looking at the way they’ve played this year, they’re not going to go down wondering. They’ll come out and really attack. We just have to be nice and controlled as much as we can.”
Before the last round of the regular season last weekend, the Crusaders had a chance of topping the New Zealand conference and earning a home quarter-final.
But a hugely disappointing 35-10 loss to the Hurricanes in Christchurch killed those hopes and meant having to jump on a plane to South Africa.
“It is what it is,” Read said before the team’s departure from New Zealand.
“I would obviously prefer to be here, but we had it in our hands and we weren’t quite good enough.”
The Crusaders have also had to ensure a late start to their journey, with the higher-seeded Chiefs, who are up against the Stormers later on Satuturday (Sunday am AEST), getting the earlier flight.
It means Read and his players will have just one training run after their arrival.
Despite the travel factor, the Crusaders do have an excellent record away to the Lions, whom they have beaten in seven of their nine meetings on the road.
For the quarter-final, they will be without star Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo and All Blacks prop Joe Moody, both out to injury.
However, Andy Ellis, who sat out the defeat to the Hurricanes after picking up a calf problem in the warm-up, is in the travel squad as one of three halfbacks.
Assistant coach Tabai Matson rated the experienced former All Black as a 70-30 chance to face the Lions.