Reds head to Christchurch house of pain to battle revived Crusaders

rugby03 May 2024 09:58| © Reuters
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Matt Faessler © Getty Images

After a bitter, last-gasp defeat to the Blues, the Reds head to Christchurch looking to snuff out the Crusaders' mini-revival in Super Rugby Pacific and shrug off 25 years of heartache in the South Island city.

The Reds have not won in Christchurch since 1999 and come up against a team who looked back to their best in a 39-0 demolition of the Melbourne Rebels.

Les Kiss's Reds have shown they are competitive against the competition's best sides but have yet to beat a New Zealand-based team away from their Brisbane home this season, losing to both Moana Pasifika and the Hurricanes.

"There's no real thought process between Kiwi teams and Australian teams for us," hooker Matt Faessler said on Friday.

"For us it's about trying to perform as well as we can against the opposition we're playing against that given week.

"None of the historical stuff weighs heavy on us. What does weigh is the fact that (the Crusaders) are a quality opposition."

Wallabies loose forward Fraser McReight returns to the Reds line-up for Saturday's clash after serving a two-week suspension for a red card.

Former British and Irish Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny makes a long-awaited Crusaders debut after missing most of the season with a pectoral muscle injury.

The match offers an unexpected halfback duel between the Reds' Lawson Creighton, who replaces the injured Tom Lynagh for his first start at flyhalf this season, and the Crusaders' David Havili, who is rarely seen outside the centres.

Faessler said coach Kiss had told his team not to look at the Super Rugby table, where the defending champions Crusaders lie 10th – four places below the Reds.

"(He told us) just to be focusing on playing our game and treating the Crusaders as the form team in the competition, as they have been in the past seven years," he added.