All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has been an exception among rugby authority this week, in saying that there is no guarantee of a Crusaders victory.
While many are predicting a caning in Christchurch from the home side, Hansen has not been as quick to write off the lions, aligning the upcoming Super Rugby final to that of the 2007 World Cup quarter between New Zealand and France.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Hansen urged for preparation for what could be a tough final.
‘I think they [Crusaders fans] need to be a bit more aware that it’s only a two-horse race,’ Hansen said. ‘You’ve only got to think back to 2007 in Cardiff [the All Blacks’ World Cup quarter-final]. People didn’t think that France could win and we got smacked quite badly.
‘So you would expect the Crusaders to go out favourites and rightly so because they’ve played some wonderful football. But there’s no guarantee they’re going to win it. They’re going have to go out and earn it, and that’s a pretty good Lions side, I think.
‘When you look at a contest like this one, you say to yourself who’s going to dominate the scrums and you can’t really say; who’s going to dominate the lineouts and you can’t really say,’ Hansen added. ‘So it’s who’s going to turn up on the night and get it right. Who’s going to supply the right amount and right quality of ball to the backs, and both backlines are quite exciting.’
Hansen was also questioned on the Crusaders star pivot Richie Mo’unga and the potential of a starting spot for him come the Rugby Championship. In response, Hansen and the following to say of the 23 year old.
“He’s playing behind a Rolls Royce pack… but, yes, he is (putting pressure on Barrett and McKenzie). He’s playing the way we’re expecting him to play behind a pack like that.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how he does in a big game. It’s not a Test match, but it’s probably the closest you’ll get to one without playing one. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he drives the team around the park.”