Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder has made two changes to his starting XV that beat the Highlanders two weeks ago for Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final against the Sharks.
Richie McCaw has recovered from injury to return to the line-up and will play on the blindside flank. That sees Jordan Taufua move to the bench and Luke Whitelock drop out of the matchday squad.
Corey Flynn will take the starting hooker spot for his 150th Crusaders game, with Ben Funnell providing back-up from the bench.
The Crusaders qualified for this semi-final at home by finishing the regular-season second on the points table, while the Sharks beat the Highlanders in a quarter-final last weekend to qualify.
Blackadder said the team is preparing for its toughest game yet as both teams will be throwing everything they’ve got at it in their quest to make the Grand Final.
“The Sharks have shown this season that they are an extremely classy outfit and a very difficult team to beat. This is our biggest challenge yet, but we feel ready for it,” said Blackadder.
“It is going to be awesome to play in front of a home crowd for this semi-final on Saturday night and the roar of the crowd may just be the extra boost that gets us across the line.”
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn , 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Date: Saturday, July 26
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT; 08:35 BST)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Mike Fraser
- Planet Rugby