Crusaders make wholesale changes for Chiefs clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Crusaders will celebrate another big milestone this week, with scrumhalf Mitch Drummond set to become the 20th Crusader to play 100 games for the franchise.
The 27-year-old will lead the team out on to the field in Hamilton on Saturday, notching up the achievement in his eighth season of Super Rugby.
Head coach Scott Robertson has made multiple changes to the side this week, following their thrilling golden-point win over the Hurricanes in Round Seven.
Captain Scott Barrett is the only forward to remain in the starting side to face the Chiefs, and will move to the blindside. George Bower, Brodie McAlister and Michael Alaalatoa complete an all-new front row, while Mitch Dunshea and Quinten Strange have been given the nod as the starting locks.
Following a successful return from injury last week, Tom Sanders will wear the No.7 jersey against the Chiefs, and Ethan Blackadder is back after being rested last week with a neck injury.
There are just two changes in the backs this week, with Drummond to start, and Leicester Fainga’anuku replacing Jack Goodhue in the midfield, who injured his left knee against the Hurricanes. Goodhue will require surgery, and is not expected to be available for any further rugby in 2021.
Isileli Tu’ungafasi, Luke Romano and Manasa Mataele could all make their first appearance in Super Rugby Aotearoa for the 2021 season, having been named in the reserves.
Robertson acknowledged Drummond’s dedication to the Crusaders over the past eight seasons, in celebrating his 100th game: “He’s just Mr. Consistent,” Robertson said.
“He’s got the best out of all his talent and he means a lot to this team. Growing up, wanting to be a Crusader and reaching this milestone, is pretty special for him and his family.”
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Ethan Blackadder, 7 Tom Sanders, 6 Scott Barrett (captain), 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Isileli Tu’ungafasi, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili Talitui, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Date: Saturday, April 17
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, James Doleman
TMO: Ben O’Keeffe