Crusaders expect plenty of niggle from the Blues

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett is anticipating plenty of niggle and a few verbal barbs when they play the Blues in Friday's Super Rugby semi-final in Christchurch.

The Blues will endeavour to upset a Crusaders outfit who command a superlative post-season record at home.

And with the injury-decimated hosts looking vulnerable on paper, there is an expectation the northerners will look to unsettle the red and black machine in Christchurch.

Hurricanes and All Blacks hooker Dane Coles served up a push-button masterclass against the Crusaders a fortnight ago during the regular season's final weekend.

Barrett expects something similar on Friday night.

"Teams want to take you off your game and distract you and divert you from what's actually needed," he said.

"That [Hurricanes game] was quite a timely lesson heading into finals.

"The Blues are certainly going to show up with physicality, possibly niggle and possibly a bit of chat so we got to be prepared for that."

Speaking at the Crusaders captain's run, Barrett was hesitant in singling out any individuals in Blues camp who may resort to verbal jabs on the pitch.

However, there has been plenty of fighting talk lobbed up by his Blues counterpart Dalton Papalii.

Papalii spoke of "bad blood" between the rival franchises after their quarter final win over the Waratahs at the weekend.

"It dates back to years ago, the rivalry we have with them, the city boys going up against those boys from down south. It gets stronger each year."

Papalii said he felt they "owed" the Crusaders one and the Crusaders forwards coach Dan Perrin said he was relishing the impending battle.

"I'm licking my lips at the confrontation with the forwards," he said.

"They've got a lot of talent and so do we. We're hungry for it and can't wait for it."

Although the side have been rocked by injuries to key personnel, the Crusaders have been able to retain the same starting XV from last week's quarter-final win over the Fijian Drua.

Their skipper suggested the group had acclimatised to the constant run of injury resulting instability.

"Sam (Whitelock) wasn't there last week and Ethan (Blackadder) was only there for four minutes.

"We're ready to go."

When asked if it had been tough throughout the campaign, Barrett appeared uninterested in dwelling on the matter.

" question," he quipped.

A fifth consecutive Super Rugby final berth is what is at stake for the 11-time champions, while the Blues are looking to avenge last year's home final defeat.

The Crusaders have maintained bragging rights during the regular season too, proving too good in both home and away meetings.

However with a place in the final on the line and the stakes raised higher, Barrett said the teams will enter the contest with "a clean slate".

"The moments become bigger with finals footy...the microscope comes out on small moments within a game that will have a big impact.

"It's critical for us to be on song from the first whistle."