Preview: Crusaders v Chiefs

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday 17 April at 7.35pm
AMI Stadium (Addington), Christchurch

Played: 26, 1996-2015
Crusaders wins: 16
Chiefs wins: 10

Crusaders points: 691
Chiefs points: 531

Last match: Chiefs 40 Crusaders 16, 28.02.15 in Hamilton

Form: The Crusaders sit eighth overall, two competition points outside the top six.

Their ledger of four wins from eight matches isn’t ideal, if the Chiefs can storm Christchurch for the fourth time then the red and blacks are at risk of falling behind.

There is almost the small matter of a rivalry’s status quo changing. The Chiefs walloped the Crusaders 40-16 during round three earlier in 2015, while the Waikato based outfit has won a remarkable six of their last nine against the seven-time champions.

This is the best record over nine matches against the Crusaders of any team since 1996.

The Chiefs six wins from eight matches has them well positioned as the highest ranked wildcard side, sitting fourth overall.

Defeats against the Highlanders and Sharks (by three and one points respectively) were not ideal but showed how resilient the two-time winners have become.

Key players: The return of Carter and McCaw cannot be underestimated as the duo bring over two centuries worth of Investec Super Rugby caps and the poise the coaching team will be looking for.

Colin Slade’s retention at 10 is a big endorsement, while Carter will add plenty of intelligence to the midfield.

The pack is class, but Wyatt Crockett, Ben Funnell and Nepo Laulala will not have things easy against an honest and physical Chiefs forward unit.

This will be interesting from a frontal exchange, for while the Chiefs forwards know how to do their job, they are up against some of the countries elite All Blacks – Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock and Crockett are backed up by Owen Franks, who will come off the bench alongside pilferer Matt Todd.

Brodie Retallick will relish this confrontation as will Liam Messam and Sam Cane, while the front row of Mitchell Graham, Hika Elliot and Ben Tameifuna will need to be solid against one of Super Rugby’s finest scrums.

Out wide the return of SBW and Maori All Blacks captain Charlie Ngatai will be notable, while Tim Nanai-Williams will partner with the inform James Lowe on the wings.

Squad update: Todd Blackadder has made five changes to the team that was beaten by the Highlanders. Up front, Wyatt Crockett and Nepo Laulala will be the starting props on Friday night, with Joe Moody and Owen Franks as cover, while Luke Romano returns to lock and Jimmy Tupou will take a spot on the bench.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Matt Todd have again rotated so that McCaw starts at 7 this week.

The only change in the backs is at second five, where Dan Carter takes Ryan Crotty’s spot.

The tourists have also made five alterations to their side, however their forward pack remains intact.

Brad Weber starts at halfback. Sonny Bill Williams and Charlie Ngatai return from injury to take their place in the midfield.

Tim Nanai-Williams comes onto the right wing with Tom Marshall moving to fullback and Michael Fitzgerald, Augustine Pulu and Andrew Horrell all join the reserves.

Kick-off is at 7.35pm NZT, with pre-game coverage on Sky Sport 1 from 7om NZT. Tickets available here.