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Veteran Willi Heinz to lead new-look Crusaders side against Bristol Bears

By Finn Morton
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders passes the ball during the round five Super Rugby Pacific match between Crusaders and ACT Brumbies at Orangetheory Stadium, on March 24, 2023, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

England international Willi Heinz will lead a new-look Crusaders outfit when they take on Bristol Bears on Saturday morning (NZT) in the final match of their Northern Tour.


Following the thrilling 21-19 loss to reigning URC champions Munster in Cork, the Crusaders have made 11 changes to their starting side.

Wing Macca Springer is the only back who has retained his spot in the starting side. Hooker George Bell, lock Quinten Strange and blindside flanker Dominic Gardiner are also set to back up this weekend.

But Strange, who was shown a yellow card during the defeat to Munster, will not lead the side this week. Strange was named as the teams’ captain for the Northern Tour, and led them into battle last weekend in Ireland.

Instead, the Crusaders have named halfback Willi Heinz as the team captain to play the Bears.

“It was always the plan,” assistant coach Tamaiti Ellison said, as reported by Stuff. “Both (Strang and Heinz) lead in different ways.

“Willi has obviously had time up here with Gloucester and if it’s raining, and it looks like it will be, he will be able to manage the game really well from halfback and with the captain’s badge.”


After coming off the bench last time out in Ireland, Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Seb Calder have been promoted into the starting front row for this clash.

Vice-captain Quinten Strange will pack down alongside Jamie Hannah, while Dominic Gardiner, Corey Kellow and Christian Lio-Willie make up the loose forwards combination.


Captain Heinz joins 23-year-old Rivez Reihana in the halves, while former All Black Ryan Crotty joins Jone Rova in the midfield.

Rising star Macca Springer will run out in the No. 11 jersey this week, while Manasa Matale will occupy the other wing with Chay Fihaki out the back.


More than 20,000 fans are expected to watch this historic meeting between the Crusaders and Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate Stadium at 7:30 pm (local time) on Friday.

The match is set to get underway at 8:30 am NZT on Saturday.

Crusaders team to take on Bristol Bears

  1. Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 2. Goerge Bell, 3. Seb Calder, 4. Quinten Strange (VC), 5. Jamie Hannah, 6. Dominic Gardiner, 7. Corey Kellow, 8. Christian Lio-Willie, 9. Willi Heinz (C), 10. Rivez Reihana, 11. Macca Springer, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Jone Rova, 14. Manasa Matale, 15. Chay Fihaki


  1. Ioane Moananu, 17. George Bower, 18. Ryan Coxon, 19. Antonio Shalfoon, 20. Fletcher Anderson, 21. Noah Hotham, 22. Taha Kemara, 23. Levi Aumua, 24. Taine Robinson, 25. Jack Gray, 26. Gus Brown

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Pete 131 days ago

Been following crusaders for years but i’ve no idea who a lot of these guys are haha! Looking forward to seeing Levi Aumua play, he’ll be a big piece of their backline for SR and they probs just don’t want him to get injured. Hopefully this builds interest and we can get a real, regular club tournament jammed somewhere into the calendar!

Chris 131 days ago

The problem with rugby is:: Everyone is moving around, no loyalty anymore. Fans can’t relate to the players…

Andrew 131 days ago

It shows how the standards of SR have declined that WH is still able to handle the pace.

Pecos 131 days ago

When a longtime Crusaders tragic like me has to Google half the team you just know it’s preseason time lol.

Rugby 132 days ago

pecos and graham where are you? talk it up. gobble

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