Crusaders to meet Sharks in Super Rugby quarter-final

Hooker Akker van der Merwe and winger Kobus van Wyk scored tries as the Sharks pipped the Melbourne Rebels for the final playoff berth.

Argentina's Jaguares were already assured of seventh-place in the overall table and fielded a side that contained 10 changes as they prepared for a first ever playoff fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg.

The Sharks finished level on 36 points with the Rebels, both sides having won seven matches in the season, but edged their Australian rivals on points difference.

Crusaders seal Super Rugby top spot with five-try win

On a big night in Christchurch for Crusaders greats Kieran Read and Wyatt Crockett, their team clinched the coveted home advantage throughout the play-offs with a round to spare.

Playmaker Richie Mo'unga contributed 25 points in the five-try win, while winger George Bridge grabbed a double to bring his try tally for the season to 11.

The Highlanders battled hard to stay in touch during the first half, but could only manage one try - to Waisake Naholo - in the second stanza as the Crusaders wore them down up front and the missed tackles started to mount.

Read returns to the Crusade

Read had surgery late last year to correct a bulging disc in his back that was causing chronic leg pain.

Read, who trained with the All Blacks in June and made himself a "pain in the butt" according to coach Steve Hansen, played a warm-up match for provincial side Counties-Manukau last week and is now ready to step up to Super Rugby level.

He will start at number eight for the clash at Rugby League Park, which has been temporarily renamed "Wyatt Crockett Stadium" in honour of the loosehead prop, who will play his 200th Super Rugby match on Friday.

Crusaders crush Force in Power Try romp

Scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond scored the seven-point try in the sixth minute on Friday night after the Crusaders launched a successful attack from within their defensive 22m.

No team was able to score a Power Try in the previous three WSR matches.

The Force fought valiantly against the defending Super Rugby champions and trailed by just eight points at halftime.

But they couldn't go the distance against a Crusaders side who still oozed talent despite missing their All Blacks stars.

The Force managed just one try for the night, while the Crusaders ran in six.

Crusaders flanker set to join Wallabies

The 26 -year-old qualifies for Australia as he was born in Melbourne and is set to play in the June test series against Six Nations champions Ireland.

The loose forward had two stints in Sydney club rugby with Randwick and has earned almost 30 caps for the Crusaders since making his debut in 2016.

Samu switched to New Zealand's Tasman and was spotted by the Crusaders and was Player of the Year in 2015 in their development team, the Knights.

Depleted Crusaders too good for Hurricanes

The Crusaders, without at least seven front-line players through injury or suspension, controlled the ball through their forwards, punished their opponent's poor discipline and produced a bruising defence to drive them back behind the advantage line.

Lock Scott Barrett, prop Michael Alaalatoa and loose forward Heiden Bedwell-Curtis crossed for the home side, while Reed Prinsep scored a late consolation try for the visitors.

The Crusaders held a narrow 7-6 lead at halftime, but dominated the second spell to set up their ninth successive win of the season.

Crusaders says they're not a dirty team

The defending champions will be without All Black props Owen Franks and Joe Moody for Friday night's top of the table Super Rugby clash with the Hurricanes in Christchurch, after the pair both recieved two match bans for striking.

On top of those suspensions the Crusaders have had five yellow cards in their last four games, with some pundits labelling the team 'grubs'.

Mooar says the incidents have all been different and he doesn't believe they have a problem.


Sam Whitelock to miss Blues game

Vice-captain Crotty will link with Jack Goodhue in the midfield.

The Crusaders have made six changes and one positional switch from the side that beat the Waratahs last week.

In the front row, Tim Perry makes his return from a hamstring injury and will start at loosehead prop. All Black Owen Franks also returns to the starting side this week, and Mike Alaalatoa moves to the reserves.

Kieran Read back with the Crusaders

Read had surgery on his spine in December and is unlikely to be available until after the June international window.

His last game was for the All Blacks against Scotland in November and pain in his leg led to him having surgery.

The Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O'Gara says it was great to see Read back with the side.

Crusaders get help from league mentor

The Melbourne Storm mentor was in the Crusaders' coaching box at AAMI Park on Friday night as the defending champions crushed the Melbourne Rebels 55-10.

Despite playing different codes, the two title-holding clubs, who share a long history of success, have formed a tight bond.

The teams had lunch together on Thursday and watched each others training sessions while Bellamy was given the honour of presenting the Crusaders with their playing jerseys before the game.