SA journeyman on Chiefs bench
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland has named his side to challenge the defending champions the Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday.
Following an 80-minute performance in the season opener, prop Aidan Ross will again start at loosehead alongside hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho. Joining the pair will be All Black prop Atu Moli in the only change to the forward pack, replacing Nepo Laulala who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
The locking combination of Tyler Ardron and Mitchell Brown alongside loose forwards Lachlan Boshier and Mitchell Karpik remain unchanged as does Chiefs captain Sam Cane at No.8.
In the backs, scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will combine with the experienced Aaron Cruden who will don the No.10 jersey, with his understudy Kaleb Trask securing a spot on the bench in jersey No.22.
All Black Anton Lienert-Brown will join Quinn Tupaea starting in the midfield at 12 and 13 respectively, with Alex Nankivell covering on the bench in jersey 23. The only other change to the talented backline will see the eagerly anticipated return of All Black Damian McKenzie at fullback.
Chiefs hooker Bradley Slater will be joined by experienced Bay of Plenty prop in Ross Geldenhuys who will debut for the Chiefs.
Geldenhuys is a real journeyman in the game having played for the Border Bulldogs, Western Province, Pumas, Lions, Blue Bulls, Boland Cavaliers, Free State Cheetahs, Griffons, Eastern Province Kings, Stormers, Tasman, Highlanders, Southern Kings and Sharks in the past.
Fellow debutant Waikato prop Ollie Norris will look to come off the bench for his Super Rugby debut. Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Pita Gus Sowakula will provide loose forward cover once again in addition to All Black Brad Weber covering Tahuriorangi at scrumhalf.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Quinn Tupaea, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Sam Cane (captain), 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Ollie Norris, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Alex Nankivell.
Date: Saturday, February 8
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.05 (06.05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)