Super Rugby championship: Despite acknowledging the “phenomenal” form of the Canterbury Crusaders, Waikato Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan thinks his team has ample reason to be confident going into the Super Rugby Pacific final.
In the all-New Zealand championship game on Saturday in Hamilton, the top-qualifying Chiefs will face a Crusaders team that dominated its opponents in the knockout round to set up a chance at a seventh straight championship.
The Chiefs have defeated the Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies in the playoffs, while the second-ranked Crusaders have thrashed both the Fijian Drua and Auckland Blues in Christchurch.
In a crushing 52-15 victory over the Blues on Friday, the Crusaders just about missed their eight injured All Blacks.
After defeating the ACT Brumbies 19-6 on Saturday, the top-ranked Chiefs will play the Crusaders, the 11-time Super Rugby Pacific winners, in an all-New Zealand final.
The final will be an exciting match, with many All Blacks and a Crusaders team vying for their eighth straight championship after thrashing the Auckland Blues 52-15 in the semifinals on Friday.
Brad Weber, the co-captain of the Chiefs, was happy that his team had won 15 of their previous 16 games.
“I feel like we have probably won in every way possible this season, and that was a hell of a grind against a good Brumbies team,” said Weber, who is about to sign with Stade Francais.
Chiefs comprehensively beating the Crusaders in Christchurch
The Chiefs and Crusaders will meet in a justly contested grand final almost precisely four months after the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season began in Christchurch with the Chiefs convincingly defeating the Crusaders. If the two semifinal matches are any indication, the grand final will be extremely challenging to predict.
Few could have confidently predicted the Crusaders would completely dismantle the Blues in their 52-15 victory on Friday at Orangetheory Stadium, and the Chiefs left it late to defeat the Brumbies 19-6 at Waikato Stadium last night, just a week after they struggled to contain the Reds in their quarterfinal.
The Chiefs, who only lost one game during the regular season, earned the right to host the championship game. Coach Clayton McMillan ruthlessly drilled the Chiefs’ pack, which is led by Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick, to help them achieve this feat.