Preview: Crusaders v Cheetahs

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Saturday, March 21, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 21 March at 7.35pm
AMI Stadium (Addington), Christchurch

Played: 8, 2006-14 (DNP 2013)
Crusaders wins: 6
Cheetahs wins: 2

Crusaders points: 315
Cheetahs points: 163

Last match: Crusaders 52 Cheetahs 31, 12.04.14 in Bloemfontein

Squad update: The big news is the decision by Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder to rest All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, a deliberate plan to keep the most capped player in New Zealand fresh for the upcoming tour to the Republic.

Matt Todd takes position at openside flanker, while Codie Taylor starts at hooker in the place of Ben Funnell.

The red and blacks' back division welcomes back Test custodian Israel Dagg to the starting lineup, while Kieron Fonotia takes his place on the wing replacing the injured Johnny McNicholl.

The Cheetahs continue to persist with Joe Pietersen at first five-eighth, who has plenty of firepower outside of him in the form of Willie le Roux and Johann Sadie.

The pack features the return of Heinrich Brussow, with the Free State scavenger playing his first match for the team this year after being cleared of concussion symptoms suffered in Japan.

Form: The Crusaders, famously slow starters in Super Rugby, are slowly but surely beginning to find their groove, running in four tries against a gallant Lions team last weekend.

Sitting tenth overall, the side’s heavy defeat to the Chiefs in round three ensures that the Christchurch based outfit has work to do if they are to keep pace with the likes of the Hurricanes and Highlanders.

Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks did a demolition job on the Lions scrum last week and will be looking for more of the same against one of the less formidable South African front rows.

The Cheetahs, who won back-to-back matches to open their season against the Sharks and Blues, have slumped to two losses in Bloemfontein.

Defeats to the Bulls and Sharks have resulted in the side shipping in nearly 30 points a match so far in 2015, the worst of any team in the competition.

Key players: The return of Kieran Read was notable last week, as were the classical wide ranging runs which the Lions were all but powerless to stop.

Colin Slade and Dan Carter form an assured partnership at 10 and 12, while Nemani Nadolo, one of Super Rugby’s best attacking players last year, will want to get more involved.

The Cheetahs will rely on Brussow’s proven talents but he will need his partners Teboho Mohoje and Jean Cook to keep the Crusaders forward’s contained if he is to work his magic on the deck.

Le Roux, the Springboks fullback, hasn’t had many opportunities this year, but considering the more open nature of the Crusaders, the grass of Christchurch might be the ideal place to stretch his legs.

While Coenie Oosthuizen and Danie Mienie are not household names in New Zealand, yet the Cheetahs props will back themselves despite the pedigree of the home team’s scrum.