PREVIEW: Chiefs v Crusaders

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016    Getty Images

ROUND 15: Chiefs v Crusaders, Friday July 1, 7.35pm, National Stadium, Suva

The stakes will be high in Fiji with the winner securing top spot in the New Zealand conference leading in to round 16. The Chiefs hold the advantage over the Crusaders in recent seasons with seven wins from the last nine encounters, including a 27-21 victory in round one. The table-topping Crusaders will be hoping to continue their rampant Super Rugby form which included an eight match winning streak before losing to the Highlanders in round 12.

It will be a Fijian homecoming for players in both teams. For the Chiefs, blockbusting centre Seta Tamanivalu was born and raised in Fiji before migrating to New Zealand to study at Saint Kentigern College. The Fijian factor is even stronger in the Crusaders starting fifteen with Jone Macilai and Nemani Nadolo taking the wing spots. The sold out crowd of almost 19,000 are expected to be backing the Chiefs as the ‘home’ team.
After only clocking 54 minutes of play so far this Investec Super Rugby season, 2011 Rugby World Cup hero Stephen Donald gets his first start of the season. During the June break, Donald starred for the Chiefs in their 40-7 walloping of Wales and has been leading the Chiefs backline at training while Aaron Cruden has been on All Blacks duty. Chiefs Assistant Coach Neil Barnes said: “"Going on his form in the Welsh game, which we thought was pretty good, we thought we'd give him the opportunity to go out there and run the game for us"

One of the most intriguing head-to-head battles will take place at half back where Brad Weber and Andy Ellis clash. Both players will be disappointed to have missed selection in the All Blacks squad for the Wales Test series and will have a point to prove. With hot conditions assured in Suva, the half backs have a big role in keeping their forwards energised and igniting their exciting backlines in the dry conditions.

Chiefs: 15: Damian McKenzie 14: Toni Pulu 13: Seta Tamanivalu 12: Anton Lienert-Brown 11: James Lowe 10: Stephen Donald 9: Brad Weber 8: Tom Sanders 7: Sam Cane 6: Taleni Seu 5: Brodie Retallick 4: Dominic Bird 3: Hiroshi Yamashita 2: Hika Elliot 1: Kane Hames
Reserves: Nathan Harris, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Atu Moli, Mitchell Brown, Lachlan Boshier, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Sam McNichol

Crusaders: 15: Israel Dagg 14: Jone Macilai 13: Kieron Fonotia 12: David Havili 11: Nemani Nadolo 10: Richie Mo’unga 9: Andy Ellis 8: Kieran Read (C) 7: Matt Todd 6: Jordan Taufua 5: Scott Barrett 4: Sam Whitelock 3: Owen Franks 2: Codie Taylor 1: Wyatt Crockett
Reserves: 16: Ben Funnell 17: Joe Moody 18: Mike Alaalatoa 19: Jimmy Tupou 20: Jed Brown 21: Mitchell Drummond 22: Mitchell Hunt 23: Sean Wainui