It’s the game of the century! The decade!! The year!!!
Strictly tonight's showdown in Hail town could be all of those, and Lord knows this column has been throwing forward to Canes v Saders from just about day one.
So I can hardly now argue it’s no biggie.
Now I’m firmly in the camp of let’s try and put them away this time. But if we don’t it possibly isn’t the end of the world in the race for home finals.
Firstly, stating the obvious. Win on Friday and we knock over our closest rivals badly in the conference race, with a game in hand.
Secondly, they’re not exactly there for the taking, but injuries (of which the Canes are carrying a few, let me remind Saders fans) and foul play has left the home side vulnerable. No Crusaders team in Christchurch is actually vulnerable, but they’re going to be easier to beat now than in two months time.
Thirdly, two losses in two derbies in one season would have to sow doubts even in Canterbury.
Finally, there are some fond memories of the drubbing dished out to the Crusaders in the freakish weekend two years ago on the way to our first title. The romantic in me would like nothing better than a repeat.
Now onto why losing – and of course that’s possible – will be no disaster.
With a game in hand, the Canes can actually lose this match if by 7 or less, and the teams will be tied on the log if all other results in the comp go to expectation. The race for the title would then come down to points differential (in which the Canes lag, but with fewer matches played) and of course results.
It’s all very hypothetical and the cut-throat nature of the NZ conference at this end of the competition could upset any side,. But it would make the run-in to the finals even more interesting.
Now onto the actual game on the field.
Let’s see if the Barrett J move is a game changer either way. I always feel nervous when the midfield gets rejigged too much. Then again, the Saders midfield may find they’ve got a real handful coming their way all night, plus Laumape.
But hey, heartening to see the skipper promising to do the hard work with the forwards in the trenches.
Because the weather will probably be iffy. Not foggy you understand, but trending towards 3 degrees overnight. That probably bodes ill for razzle dazzle and suggests the Crusaders will know how to win by toughing it out.
The other imponderable is when the Crusaders will suffer their statistically highly likely yellow card (perish the thought of a red) . Just what damage will that do.
Honestly that statistically is about the only gaping difference between these two sides. There is an oddity in there; the superstar backline Canes are actually generating a lot more of their points from converted penalty kicks (about 1.5 per game) than the Crusaders (0.33 per game)this year.
Go figure. Put up all the stats you like but it will be the side which wants it the most on Friday. Let’s get started!
Kevin is a lifetime Hurricanes fan. He and his partner are on a two-year Volunteer Service Abroad posting to Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo island. He's working on a project to build a South Pacific World War 2 museum on the site of an enormous Allied base on the island. Check it out at www.southpacificwwiimuseum.com