19 May 2017

Sport: Super Rugby showdown a "dream" for Fijian fans

11:50 am on 19 May 2017

Organisers are confident of another bumper crowd for tonight's Super Rugby clash between the Chiefs and Crusaders in Fiji.

The Chiefs prevailed 23-13 in pouring rain when the same teams played last year in front of a sold out crowd of 20,000 supporters at Suva's ANZ Stadium.

Lautoka-born All Black Seta Tamanivalu will start on the right wing tonight for the Crusaders, after playing in the centres for the Chiefs during last year's corresponding match.

Seta Tamanivalu makes a break against the Hurricanes.

Seta Tamanivalu makes a break against the Hurricanes. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Suva-born Manasa Mataele is also on the bench for Super Rugby's only remaining unbeaten team.

Fiji Sports Council CEO and chair of match organising committee, Litiana Loabuka, said locals are blessed to watch two top teams in action.

"The weather last year - there was not a single person that left the stadium dry however everyone was smiling because we just enjoyed a fantastic night of rugby," she said.

"I know that this year we won't have any disappointment again with what the boys will put on for us.

"We've got the crowd coming down to come and support their team and we expect to have another great night with all the spectators...showing our bula spirit down at the ground."

"It's a dream for so many. They get to watch these Super Rugby players come and play here in Fiji in our local ground at prices that are affordable for our players, our people to come down and support," said Loabuka.

"And to be able to watch all of this explosive action with such top level rugby here in our backyard."

Litiana Loabuka said both teams have got out into the local community during the week.

"They've also taken the opportunity to go and visit the local hospitals and schools and just pass on a tip or two," she said.

"I know the legacy they leave behind is definitely going to inspire our Fijian rugby players and supporters."

The stands were packed at ANZ Stadium in Suva for the Fiji sevens team's welcome home celebration.

ANZ Stadium is expected to be close to capacity for Friday's match. Photo: Fiji Government

Weather factor

The Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said the team that can best adapt to the local conditions will win.

Temperatures in Suva this week are averaging the high 20s while the team's Christchurch home is barely breaking double digits.

Last year the Chiefs came away victors on a wet and windy night and Robertson was expecting much the same.

"It depends if there's a bit of wind at night - sometimes it can take that little bit of dew and humidity away - but that wind can also bring showers in pretty quickly," he said.

"It warmed up last year when it was fine and then it rained pretty quickly and never stopped into that first half so we're prepared for both conditions, as you would expect coming into a tropical island."

The Crusaders' midfielder Ryan Crotty.

The Crusaders' midfielder Ryan Crotty. Photo: Photosport

All Black and Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty didn't play in last year's Suva clash but said he knows what to expect.

"The conditions will make it tough so it's important you have your tactical plan right and also individual plan around dealing with the humidity and things like that."

Local rivalries

The Chiefs are expecting an almost Test-like intensity to tonight's New Zealand derby.

The Crusaders edged the Hurricanes in a tense encounter last weekend, extending their unbeaten run this season to 11 games.

But the Chiefs have won four of their past five matches against the competition front-runners, including in Suva 10 months ago.

chiefs glory

The Chiefs will be hoping for more celebrations in Suva. Photo: Photosport

Assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge said it promised to be another thriller.

"It's not very often you get to test yourself against test-quality players," he said.

"We've got a few (but) they've got a lot so it's going to be a really good opportunity and it's why you play rugby, it's why you play sport.

"For those times where it's really tough and those time where you get to test your mettle, test yourself as a man and measure yourself against the best."

The Fiji government have agreed to a three-year arrangement to host Super Rugby matches in Suva until 2019.