You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Whitelock back for Crusaders' Fiji match

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/05/2017

Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock has slotted straight back into the unbeaten Super Rugby side's run-on XV as they go tropical for this weekend's clash with the Chiefs in Suva. © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock has slotted straight back into the unbeaten Super Rugby side's run-on XV as they go tropical for this weekend's clash with the Chiefs in Suva. Crusaders skipper Sam Whitelock has slotted straight back into the unbeaten Super Rugby side's run-on XV as they go tropical for this weekend's clash with the Chiefs in Suva.

The 84-cap All Black has sat out the side's last two matches after picking up a suspension against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein for striking.

But with fellow lock Scott Barrett ruled out for at least a fortnight with a knee issue, Whitelock's return is a timely boost for the side as they look to cement their spot at the top of the New Zealand conference.

He'll partner up with Luke Romano in the second row, two-fifths of an all-Test tight five including Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks.

"He's fresh, real fresh - everyone's trying to pull him back," Crusaders boss Scott Robertson told reporters.

"He's really clear what he wants from our group, driven around the team and brought a great energy to us this week after watching the last two."

Elsewhere, Robertson has mostly stuck with the squad that outclassed and harried the Hurricanes into submission in last week's all-Kiwi derby.

The only other change to his starting XV is at halfback, where Bryn Hall jumps into the No.9 jumper for the benched Mitchell Drummond.

Star fullback Israel Dagg will sit out at least another week as he reintegrates into the side, while Kieran Read remains weeks from action.

Matt Todd has passed all concussion protocols and will play from the start.

"Probably (they're) the best No.9 and No.21 combination in the competition, both great starters and finishers," Robertson said.

"It was a chance for Bryn to play this week, after two starts by Mitchell."

Friday's match in Suva marks the second consecutive year in which the Crusaders and Chiefs have jetted off to Fiji for a Super Rugby clash.

The Chiefs won 23-13 in the tropical wet last year, and Robertson said the chance of a repeat dose of rain remained high.

More importantly, the match would serve as a test of his side's title credentials and durability after arriving in Fiji on Tuesday.

"(Wednesday) for us is really important mentally and physically, getting good clarity on how we're going to play," Robertson said.

"We're well aware and clear of the requirements, what we need for a home final and the difference for us between finishing first and fifth, it's a fine margin."

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

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon