Crusaders stalwart Sam Whitelock is set to become the seventh player to bring up his 150th game for the club, when he takes the field in Hamilton on Saturday night.
Head Coach Scott Robertson has named his side for the round 8 Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Chiefs, and Whitelock, now in his 11th Super Rugby season, has also been named vice-captain for his milestone match.
There are two changes in the forwards this week, with George Bower joining the starting side, and Isileli Tu’ungafasi providing cover at loosehead prop on the bench. Joe Moody will not travel to Hamilton with the side due to a family bereavement.
Flanker Sione Havili joins the starting side in the number six jersey, with Tom Sanders shifting to Number 8 in place of Whetukamokamo Douglas, who is recovering from a medial ligament injury.
There is just one further change in the backline this week, with Mitchell Drummond earning a start, and Bryn Hall named on the bench. Fetuli Paea will once again line up in the midfield alongside Jack Goodhue, with Braydon Ennor still recovering from the toe injury he sustained in the Blues game.
“First and foremost, the thoughts of the Crusaders team and our wider organisation are with Joe Moody and his family at this very sad time, and we’ll certainly be thinking of them when we take the field on Saturday night,” Robertson said.
“As a group, we’re also really proud to be celebrating Sam’s 150-game milestone this week, he is such a quality leader and a massive contributor to our team.
“He’s a proud Crusader, and I know the side is keen to show him plenty of respect with our performance.
“We had a really honest review following the Hurricanes game, and identified areas we need to get better this week.
“We’re coming up against a Chiefs side who have only been beaten by the smallest of margins so far in this competition, and will be desperate for a win in front of their home fans.”
The Chiefs have yet to register a win in Super Rugby Aotearoa but should they hand the Crusaders their second loss it would blow the competition wide open in the inaugural title race.
The Hurricanes and Blues sit with two losses beneath the Crusaders on the table but within touching distance.
Crusaders team to play the Chiefs:
1. George Bower
2. Codie Taylor (C)
3. Michael Alaalatoa
4. Samuel Whitelock* (VC)
5. Mitchell Dunshea
6. Sione Havili
7. Tom Christie
8. Tom Sanders
9. Mitchell Drummond
10. Richie Mo’unga
11. George Bridge
12. Jack Goodhue (VC)
13. Fetuli Paea
14. Sevu Reece
15. Will Jordan
16. Andrew Makalio
17. Isileli Tu’ungafasi
18. Oliver Jager
19. Quinten Strange
20. Billy Harmon
21. Bryn Hall
22. Brett Cameron
23. Leicester Fainga’anuku
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