Crusaders on alert for improving Reds

The Queensland Reds have tasted victory just twice this Super Rugby season, but one of those wins has the in-form Crusaders on edge.

A month ago, the Reds broke their duck by holding off defending champions the Highlanders 28-27.

That match, in which the Reds scored three early tries to open out a 22-6 half-time lead, has been noted by Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, whose team host the Queenslanders in Christchurch on Friday night.

“That’s always in the back of my mind,” he said.

“I saw what they did to the Highlanders in the first 25, 30 minutes and they can be quite devastating.”

Although the Crusaders are on a seven-match winning run and are refreshed by a bye, Blackadder has ruled out any complacency against opponents sitting second bottom in the Australasian group.

“I just think in this competition, the day you think you are better than what you are, you get put away,” Blackadder said.

“We’re not taking anything for granted. We are not buying into this whole eight in a row stuff. It doesn’t feel like that. We’re just a team hungry to win in every game.”

The Reds bagged a second victory last weekend by downing the Cheetahs.

However, the Crusaders will be firm favourites to extend a streak that began after a round-one loss to the Chiefs.

They have history in their favour, having won their past four meetings with the Reds – topping 50 points in the last two – and having lost just once to them at home, back in 1999.

There is also the incentive that a bonus-point victory could take them top of the table above the Chiefs, who are in action the following night.

Blackadder has made five changes to his starting 15, one of those forced by the four-week ban on Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo for a tip tackle in the 40-14 win over the Brumbies.

Nadolo has been replaced by Johnny McNicholl, who is back from a toe injury.

Blackadder said the other changes reflected a consistent selection policy, with rotation keeping players hungry and up for the challenge.

Nadolo’s suspension does give the blockbusting runner a conditioning window.

“He’s probably been struggling a bit just of late,” Blackadder said.

“He just needs to refresh mentally as well as get some yards into his body.”

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