Reds on revenge mission, Crusaders on a roll for Super Rugby finals
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Sydney (AFP) –
The Queensland Reds are seeking revenge while across the Tasman, the Canterbury Crusaders will look to extend their dominance when Australia and New Zealand's domestic Super Rugby competitions play their finals this weekend.
The Reds narrowly lost last year's Super Rugby AU decider 28-23 to the ACT Brumbies and admit the defeat still smarts, setting up an epic rematch in front of 50,000 fans in Brisbane on Saturday.
Reds half-back Tate McDermott said footage of the Brumbies celebrating after last year's win provided ample motivation for Saturday's clash.
"We've re-watched that final minute of the grand final, where you see them kick it out and there's a bit of carry on and they win," he said.
"There's definitely been a fire burning since that moment last year that has really helped the team... we do owe them a lot from that game."
The Reds have overtaken the Brumbies as Australia's most consistent team this year, losing only once in an outstanding season that has included two victories over their Canberra-based rivals.
Coach Dan McKellar admitted his Brumbies were the underdogs but warned the Queenslanders not to expect an easy victory in front of what is likely to be a sold-out Suncorp Stadium.
- Five-year streak -
"We're quite happy -- backs to the wall, big crowd at Suncorp, just ourselves and our family to bounce off," he said.
"We'll go out there and prove a few people wrong and continue our reign as Australia's leading team over a number of years. That's the goal."
Over in New Zealand, the Crusaders are red-hot favourites to defend the Super Rugby Aotearoa title, adding a second domestic championship to the record 10 international Super Rugby titles already in the trophy cabinet.
Victory against Waikato Chiefs in Christchurch on Saturday would make it five straight years the Crusaders have won Super Rugby or Super Rugby Aotearoa.
They are unbeaten in 24 post-season matches contested at home, including six finals, and coach Scott Robertson said it was not a record they would give up lightly.
"Occasions like this are exactly what we play for, the chance to represent the people of our region on the big stage," he said.
By contrast, the Chiefs began the season as competition losing their first two matches to compound the pain of a winless 2020.
But a five-match run of success turned their campaign around, with coach Clayton McMillan saying the Chiefs felt a burden had been lifted and they could defeat anyone, even an outfit as formidable as the Crusaders.
"On any given day, any team can be beaten, and we've proven that," he said.
"This weekend we are going down to Christchurch with confidence and believe we can upset the Crusaders."
© 2021 AFP