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Todd to skipper Whitelock-less Crusaders

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017

Battered by the losses of Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read, the touring Crusaders have installed openside Matt Todd as their skipper for this weekend's clash with the Bulls in Pretoria. © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Battered by the losses of Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read, the touring Crusaders have installed openside Matt Todd as their skipper for this weekend's clash with the Bulls in Pretoria. Battered by the losses of Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read, the touring Crusaders have installed openside Matt Todd as their skipper for this weekend's clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.

The eight-cap All Black, named vice-captain alongside Ryan Crotty at the start of 2017 by boss Scott Robertson, will step into the hot seat on South African soil after Whitelock was banned for two games for striking.

He has returned to Christchurch and will miss the encounter on Sunday morning (NZT), as well as next week's derby with the Hurricanes.

Test captain Read, meanwhile, is in doubt for the start of the British and Irish Lions Test series after breaking his thumb in last week's win over the Cheetahs.

"Todd will be our leader - he'll go about it in his own way," Robertson said.

Elsewhere, Crotty has been surprisingly rested for the clash in Gauteng, with Tim Bateman taking his place at second-five.

Bryn Hall also swaps out for Mitchell Drummond at halfback, after starting in the side's rout of the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

"It's a tough one - they're (both) playing superb football," Robertson said.

"We feel like one player might even give us more off the bench this week than the other, just because of the style of play."

Up front, Luke Romano slots in for Whitelock, partnering Scott Barrett, while Pete Samu replaces Read and Jordan Taufua moves to No.8.

In the front row, Wyatt Crockett also enters for rested Test teammate Joe Moody, where he'll be joined by Owen Franks and an in-form Codie Taylor.

Robertson was quick to laud his hooker for a standout 2017 season to date.

"He's been consistent, his lineout throwing has been world-class (and) the stats show that," Robertson said.

The Crusaders have not defeated a burly Bulls outfit in South Africa since 2008, and Robertson said he was expecting a tough and lineout-heavy battle against a desperate opponent.

They sit in second in the Africa 1 conference but have the second-least points of all the South African sides.

"They're pretty physical in what they bring and they're pretty passionate - especially against the Crusaders," Robertson said.

CRUSADERS: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Tim Bateman, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd (c), Pete Samu, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. RESERVES: Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody, Michael Alaalatoa, Quinten Strange, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Bryn Hall, Mitchell Hunt, Ryan Crotty.

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