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Sam Whitelock named for Super Rugby return vs the Highlanders

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

All Blacks and Super Rugby veteran Sam Whitelock will return to the Crusaders’ second-row this weekend, as they look to bounce back from an opening round loss on Friday.


Whitelock was ruled out of the season opener against the Chiefs in Christchurch because of a concussion, but is set to run out in the No. 5 jersey against the Highlanders.

The fierce South Island rivals will go head-to-head in the first match of Super Round on Friday, which is due to kick-off at Melbourne’s AAMI park at 8pm NZT.

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All 12 Super Rugby Pacific teams will play at the same venue over three nights from Friday to Sunday.

Defending Super Rugby champions the Crusaders, who have won six titles in as many years under coach Scott Robertson, and eager to bounce back from their 31-10 defeat.

“There were some awesome efforts last week, and a couple of things we need to get better at,” Robertson said.

There is one change in the front row this weekend, with Tamaiti Williams set to start at tighthead prop.


That is one of three changes in the forward pack, with Christian Lio-Willie to start and of course the return of star lock Sam Whitelock.

“It’s great to have him back around the group,” he added.

“14 years’ experience – we all know how important he is for us.”

As for the backline, the Crusaders have stuck by their halves pairing from last weekend – with capped internationals Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo’unga set to combine once again.

Utility back David Havili has moved from fullback to inside centre, and will partner Jack Goodhue in the midfield.

Fergus Burke is set to fill the hole left by Havili’s move to the centres, and don the No. 15 jersey after playing some “great footy.”


“Ferg’s been playing great footy you know. He’s quick enough, he’s big enough and he can punt a ball.


“We had him there for a bit of the pre-season to set him up and this is the game we decided to do it.”

There is one debutant in the Crusaders team this week, with replacement Noah Hotham in line for his first taste of Super Rugby Pacific.

“It wasn’t that long ago I was in highs school and before that at intermediate watching these guys on TV, so yeah that’s a bit crazy,” Hotham said.

“But you know, the more you train with hem, the more you get to hang out with the boys, having lunch, in the gym, you build those connections.”


Crusaders team to take on the Highlanders

  1. Joe Moody
  2. Codie Taylor
  3. Tamaiti Williams
  4. Scott Barrett (c)
  5. Sam Whitelock
  6. Ethan Blackadder
  7. Tom Christie
  8. Christian Lio-Willie
  9. Mitchell Drummond
  10. Richie Mo’unga
  11. Leicester Fainga’anuku
  12. David Havili
  13. Jack Goodhue
  14. Sevu Reece
  15. Fergus Burke



  1. Brodie McAlister
  2. George Bower
  3. Seb Calder
  4. Zach Gallagher
  5. Sione Havili Talitui
  6. Noah Hotham
  7. Braydon Ennor
  8. Macca Springer

press release/Crusaders


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Shaylen 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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Jon 8 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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FEATURE Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma