The Crusaders and Chiefs will go head-to-head in the latter’s home ground of Waikato Stadium, but can the most successful Super Rugby team in history overcome last year’s champions?
The Crusaders have made a five changes to their lineup, with Codie Taylor moving into the front row in place of Cory Flynn. Israel Dagg has also seemed to have earned his spot back, getting the starting nod at fullback, with Crotty moving to centre and Fruen onto the bench.
Winger Telusa Veianu moves onto the bench and should pose a good attacking replacement when needed.
The Chiefs have only seen two changes to the team from last week, with Ben Tameifuna coming in for Ben Afeaki, and Patrick Osbourne now starting on the wing.
Toby Smith, Sam Cane and Lelia Masanga all take a place on the bench.
Rugby Informer’s take: If Kerr-Barlow and Cruden click as they have been over the last couple rounds, the Chiefs’ outside backs should cause some headaches for the Crusaders; but this game will come down to the battle of the loose forwards. An extremely close one – Chiefs by 3.
The match kicks off on Friday, 24 May, at 9:35 SA time.
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Robbie Fruean, 22 Telusa Vaianu.