Crusaders: Sam Whitelock hits 350 against the Chiefs while Leicester Fainga’anuku and Oli Jager are back from injury
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has made three changes to his side while Sam Whitelock is set to play his 350th first class game in Saturday’s highly anticipated clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Whitelock will pack down in the second-row alongside captain Scott Barrett while replacement lock Quinten Strange is also set to reach a milestone as he will make his 50th appearance for the Crusaders if he takes to the field.
It’s a momentous occasion for Whitelock as he joins Liam Messam, Wyatt Crockett, Keven Mealamu, Sir Colin Meads and Aaron Smith in notching the achievement.
In the backline, Leicester Fainga’anuku returns to action to take over from Macca Springer on the left wing, while Dallas McLeod is a surprise selection on the right wing, where he replaces Pepesana Patafilo, who did duty there in last weekend’s victory over the Rebels in Melbourne.
“Dallas has deserved it, hasn’t he, he’s earnt it. He’s tough and resilient in the mid-field, and when we’ve put in on the wing he’s been great,” Robertson told the Crusaders’ official website.
“He’s good in the air, he’s a great defender, he’s trained well, and we’re just really pleased for him.”
The final change sees Cullen Grace returning to the run-on side at number eight in place of Christian Lio-Willie, who is relegated to the replacements bench.
Meanwhile, tighthead prop Oli Jager is also set to make a return via the bench after a lengthy stint on the sidelines due to injury. Jager has been ruled out since injuring his neck during the latter stages of last year’s NPC and had an operation at the start of this year.
“Oli is important to us, a great player on and off the field,” added Robertson.
“It’s important to have that little bit of depth with Fletcher [Newell] going early. He’s worked hard and for him to come back now, yeah, the timing is perfect.”
Experienced duo continue in the halfbacks
In other team news, the experienced Richie Mo’unga and Mitchell Drummond continue as the half-back pairing while Fergus Burke covers the back, while the consistent Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Tamaiti Williams are the starting front-row.
Crusaders: 15 Fergus Burke, 14 Dallas McLeod, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dom Gardiner, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Tamaiti Williams, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Finlay Brewis, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Jack Goodhue, 23 Macca Springer
Date: Saturday, April 29
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 07:05 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga (New Zealand), Mike Winter (New Zealand)
READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific Team Tracker: Aaron Smith returns to captain Highlanders against Waratahs
The article Crusaders: Sam Whitelock hits 350 against the Chiefs while Leicester Fainga’anuku and Oli Jager are back from injury appeared first on Planetrugby.com.