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The most successful team in Super Rugby history makes its twelfth consecutive playoffs appearance in 2013, which in itself is an almost unbelievable achievement. Their success over the years has been built off coming right at the business end of the season, usually saving their best rugby for the finals.
This year has been no different, looking very average early on in the season, but have come right in recent weeks and are definitely the form team of the competition.
They have class all over the field, from a physical tight five who are strong at set-piece and effective around the field, to a dynamic loose forward trio who are ever-present on defence and strong running the ball. In the backs they have arguably the best nine-ten duo in the competition, a tidy midfield and a potentially threatening back three.
It certainly does not bode well for opponents. They are a team who are guided around the field by the incomparable Daniel Carter, who puts his team in positions to attack from. Their forward pack is one which will get them the go-forward to provide a good platform to work from, while the likes of Israel Dagg and Tom Marshall are lethal out wide.
Most notably though, they take their chances. It is very rare that you will see a Crusaders team squander a chance at points and this is the mark of a truly good team.
They should be too strong up front for the Reds this weekend. Their tight five is operating far better now than it was early in the season and their loose forwards will be too dynamic and too strong for their opposites. The presence of Carter in the No. 10 jersey should ensure the backs get enough to work with too and will ensure the points come.
A matchup with the Chiefs in the semifinals is a mouthwatering prospect and will provide a great spectacle. It is a game that could go either way, but their superiority in the tight and a stronger presence in the loose should see the Chiefs forwards worn down and the Crusaders eventually prevailing.
This would leave the near impossible task of beating the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, which is a tough task no matter how good you are. The Crusaders are certainly capable of it, as if the Bulls get their kicking game wrong the Crusaders back three are good enough on the counter to punish them.
They certainly have a chance, but the effects of the travel usually leave teams a yard slower and the loose forwards may not quite have the same edge they normally would.
Kieran Read is a strong ball carrier who can both provide go-forward and create for his team, while also being a physical defender who rarely misses tackles and will make plenty.
Daniel Carter is the key to the Crusaders back line operating smoothly, and is a player capable of doing it all. He possesses a very good kicking game, while also being a threat on attack, strong on defence and tactically astute. Over the past few weeks he has been playing the best rugby he has played since 2010, making him all the more threatening.
Prediction: Beaten Finalists.