Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has made several changes to his starting XV for Sunday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch.
All Blacks loosehead prop Joe Moody returns to the starting side this week, having missed the match against the Chiefs in Hamilton due to a family bereavement, while vice-captain Whetu Douglas and centre Braydon Ennor have come through training this week to make their respective returns from injury.
Douglas’ return at number eight sees Tom Sanders move back to the blindside, and Sione Havili take a spot in the reserves.
The promotion of Quinten Strange to the starting side is the only other change in the pack, with Luke Romano providing cover on the bench and Mitchell Dunshea rested for this game.
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Ennor’s inclusion in the midfield is one of only two changes in the backline, with Bryn Hall and Mitchell Drummond rotating so that Hall starts at scrum-half and Drummond will provide important impact off the bench.
A win against the Highlanders on Sunday means the Crusaders can’t be overtaken at the top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings table, but Robertson said the team’s approach to their final two games will be the same as it has been for every game so far this season.
“We know what a win on Sunday means for us, but we still have two games to prepare for, and they’re going to be incredibly tough,” he explained. “Our focus over these next two games will be the same as it has been for the last six – all about consistency and putting together performances we can be proud of against the Highlanders and the Blues.
“It’s really important we acknowledge our home fans, so we’ll take some time to connect with them after the game on Sunday and thank them for their immense support this season. It’s awesome to have another full house for this game against the Highlanders, and we’re determined to make them proud.”
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (c), 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Fainga’anuku
Date: Sunday, August 9
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 15:35 (04:35 BST, 03:35 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Ben O’Keeffe