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Crusaders name fourth captain of the season against Chiefs

By Ned Lester
Mitchell Drummond of the Crusaders. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

2024 has been anything but smooth sailing for the Crusaders, but if there was a time and place to snap a record-losing streak and kickstart a season renaissance, at home against the Chiefs would be it.

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This week, halfback Mitch Drummond will don the captain’s armband as the fourth player to lead the defending champs this season; following Scott Barrett, David Havili and Tom Christie.

There’s plenty of pressure on the stalwart nine to inspire a performance against the Chiefs, with his side still in search of their first win of the post-Scott Robertson era.

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“I’ve had the opportunity to lead the team out twice before,” Drummond said. “Once was in my 100th game and once was when I was Crusader for the Day when I was five years old, so for it to go full circle like that, it’s pretty awesome.”

Drummond will be joined in the halves by last week’s Crusaders Man of the Match Riley Hohepa, while Rivez Reihana will return to action off the bench.

Some experience has been injected into the backline in the form of returning outside back Johnny McNicholl, who will start on the left wing with youngster Macca Springer moved to the bench.

In the absence of David Havili, fellow All Black midfielder Dallas McLeod will start in the No. 12 jersey and partner Levi Aumua.

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Having impressed off the bench against the Blues, flanker Corey Kellow gets an opportunity in the starting XV, replacing Dominic Gardiner in the No. 6 jersey. Gardiner will look to provide impact as the reserve lock.

“We’re focused on Friday night, it’s a new opportunity and we’re digging deep,” said under-pressure Crusaders Head Coach Rob Penney.

“We’ve got a really good group here, we’ve got trust in them and our job as coaches is to provide confidence for them and the belief that they can get the job done.”

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Crusaders team to face the Chiefs

1. George Bower
2. George Bell
3. Fletcher Newell
4. Quinten Strange
5. Jamie Hannah
6. Corey Kellow
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Mitch Drummond
10. Riley Hohepa
11. Johnny McNicholl
12. Dallas McLeod
13. Levi Aumua
14. Sevu Reece
15. Chay Fihaki

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RESERVES:

16. James Mullen
17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin
18. Owen Franks
19. Dominic Gardiner
20. Fletcher Anderson
21. Noah Hotham
21. Rivez Reihana
23. Macca Springer

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J
Jon 29 minutes ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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W
Wonton 7 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

28 Go to comments
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