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Fresh face at flyhalf as Crusaders prepare to begin title defence in Hamilton

By Finn Morton
Rivez Reihana of Northland passes the ball during the round six Bunnings Warehouse NPC match between Otago and Northland at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on September 10, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Crusaders have named debutant Rivez Reihana at flyhalf as the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions prepare to officially get their new era without Richie Mo’unga underway.

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With seven-time Super Rugby Mo’unga leaving New Zealand’s shores to pursue an opportunity in Japan, there were some questions that remained unanswered about the Crusaders.

Well, until now. New coach Rob Penney has named exciting prospect Rivez Reihana to start in the No. 10 jersey for his Crusaders debut on Friday against his old side the Chiefs.

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Reihana, 23, is one of two debutants in the Crusaders’ starting side with marquee recruit Levi Aumua also named to run on in the No. 13 jersey.

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While the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season opener has been deemed a ‘grand final rematch’ by many, coach Penney isn’t buying into that talk.

“The Chiefs are touting it as a bit of a grudge match, a rematch of the final  – we’re not going there with that mentality,” coach Penney said in a statement.

“This is a new season, a new group, and it’s an opportunity for this team to test themselves and see where they’re at, and there’s no better way to do that than Hamilton on a Friday night Round One.”

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George Bower, George Bell and Tamaiti Williams have got the nod in the front row while captain Scott Barrett joins Northern Tour skipper Quinten Strange in the second row.

The loose forwards combination of Dom Gardiner, Tom Christie and Cullen Grace is sure to turn a few heads too, with all three men poised for a big year ahead in the red jersey.

Joining Crusaders debutant Reihana in the halves is veteran Mitchell Drummond. The pair will have attacking weapons Dallas McLeod and Levi Aumua at their disposal in the midfield.

Rounding out the starting side is rising star Macca Springer on the left wing, All Black Sevu Reece on the right, and Chay Fihaki out the back.

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There is of course no Will Jordan in this team with the All Blacks outside back set to miss the entire season after requiring surgery for a pre-existing shoulder injury.

Capped All Blacks Joe Moody, Owen Franks and Ryan Crotty will all look to provide cover off the bench, as will young halfback Noah Hotham.

The match between the Crusaders and Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato will get underway at 7.05pm NZT on Friday night.

Crusaders team to take on Chiefs

  1. George Bower
  2. George Bell
  3. Tamaiti Williams
  4. Scott Barrett (c)
  5. Quinten Strange
  6. Dom Gardiner
  7. Tom Christie
  8. Cullen Grace
  9. Mitchell Drummond
  10. Rivez Reihana*
  11. Macca Springer
  12. Dallas McLeod
  13. Levi Aumua*
  14. Sevu Reece
  15. Chay Fihaki

Reserves

  1. Quinten MacDonald
  2. Joe Moody
  3. Owen Franks
  4. Jamie Hannah
  5. Christin Lio-Willie
  6. Noah Hotham
  7. Taha Kemara
  8. Ryan Crotty

* denotes debut

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