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PREVIEW: Crusaders v Sunwolves

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Thursday, April 13, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND 8: Crusaders v Sunwolves, 7.30am Friday 14 April, AMI Stadium, Christchurch

FORM
The Crusaders are enjoying their best start to an Investec Super Rugby season in recent memory with six wins from six matches. They dealt to the Waratahs 41-21 in Sydney in round six before enjoying a bye last week. The Sunwolves have been real entertainers in 2017, looking to throw the ball around at any opportunity. Their endeavour was rewarded last week with a 21-20 victory over the Bulls. 

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STAR’S RETURN
As if going up against the top team in the New Zealand conference wasn’t hard enough for the Sunwolves, the Crusaders have been bolstered by the injury return of All Blacks captain Kieran Read, playmaker Richie Mo’unga and game breaker Seta Tamanivalu on the wing. The game will be particularly special for Tamanivalu who partners his nephew Manasa Matele on the wing for the first time in Crusaders colours.

WONDERFUL WYATT

Wyatt Crockett is set to break the all-time Investec Super Rugby appearance record when he runs out for his 176th cap on Friday night, surpassing the mark of 175 set by Keven Mealamu. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said: “He's a great man and he brings a lot to the team in many ways. He's got a great nature, is professional and plays every game like his last. For a bloke who is 34-years-old you would never know it. It's a special moment for him and his family and we're glad he can do it at home and in front of them.”

DEPTH TEST
The Crusaders are displaying real depth in their squad by resting the impressive five-some of Mitchell Hunt, Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett, Jordan Taufua for this clash. Into the squad come talented Tasman duo hooker Andrew Makalio and lock Quinten Strange. The pair were standouts for Tasman during the Mitre 10 Cup and will be itching to make an impact in their first Super Rugby appearance.

TEAMS

Crusaders: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Tim Bateman, Manasa Mataele, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Pete Samu, Sam Whitelock (captain), Luke Romano, Michael Alaalatoa, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody, Oliver Jager, Quinten Strange, Whetu Douglas, Leon Fukofuka, Marty McKenzie, George Bridge.

Sunwolves: Not available at time of publication