Pablo Matera named for Crusaders debut in Hurricanes rematch
Matera, arguably the biggest off-season signing in the competition, has been named to start on the blindside flank for last year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa champions.
Matera is one of three Crusaders debutants named for Saturday’s rematch with the Hurricanes, who won the two sides’ pre-season encounter last weekend. Hooker Shilo Klein and pivot Simon Hickey has earned spots in the reserves. While Matera and Hickey have both played Super Rugby in the past for the Jaguares and Blues respectively, it will be Klein’s first appearance at this level of the game.
On the other end of the experience spectrum, eight All Blacks have been included in the Crusaders’ starting line-up, with three further to come off the bench on Saturday night.
In the front row, Oli Jager has won the battle to start at tighthead prop following Michael Alaalatoa’s shift to Ireland. Joe Moody will pack down at loosehead while Brodie McAlister has been named to start at hooker, with Codie Taylor absent from the matchday squad altogether. George Bower and Tamaiti Williams will provide front row cover off the bench.
In the loose forwards, tackling machine Tom Christie makes his return on the openside flank after missing the entirety of the 2021 season through injury. Matera and 2020 All Black Cullen Grace round out the forwards.
Bryn Hall has been preferred ahead of Mitchell Drummond in the starting halfback role while Fergus Burke has been chosen to start at first five in the absence of Richie Mo’unga. Drummond and Hickey will enter the fray from the bench.
Vice-captain David Havili will continue his development in the midfield alongside Braydon Ennor, who sat out much of last season before making a return late in the year and travelling to Australia, the USA and Europe with the All Blacks.
Ennor’s inclusion at centre pushes Leicester Fainga’anuku onto the left wing, with George Bridge being forced onto the right. Will Jordan will start at fullback while fellow All Black Sevu Reece has been named in the reserves.
“[Under the roof of Forsyth Barr] the ball in play’s normally a little longer as well and it’s just more of a spectacle,” said Robertson of the fixture. “You sort of want to get the balance of it. But they’re always great games.
“The Hurricanes like to throw that ball around and when you’ve got Jordie’s big punt there… We’re excited to play.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:05pm under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Crusaders: Will Jordan, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Fergus Burke, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Oli Jager, Brodie McAlister, Joe Moody. Reserves: Shilo Klein, George Bower, Tamaiti Williams, Quinten Strange, Mitchell Dunshea, Mitchell Drummond, Simon Hickey, Sevu Reece.
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