PREVIEW: Crusaders v Stormers

Getty Images

Friday, April 21, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 9: Crusaders v Stormers, 7.35pm Saturday 22 April, AMI Stadium, Christchurch


The Crusaders hold a dominant record in contests between the two sides with 15 wins and one draw in the 20 games they have played and the Stormers have never beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand. That draw above, 16-16 in 1996, was their closest chance. Before last weekend it would have been a battle between two unbeaten sides but the Stormers went down to the Lions at home 16-29 which left the Crusaders as the only unbeaten side in the competition. It can be expected there will be a reaction to last weekend's loss from the visitors but against a Crusaders side regaining full strength that is unlikely to be enough.

Usual captain flanker Siya Kolisi is out of action this weekend due to the Springbok management plan so lock Eben Etzebeth will lead the side for the second time this season. Covering Kolisi's place on the side of the scrum will be lock Pieter Steph du Toit which will see Chris van Zyl partnering his skipper in the middle row. Tighthead props Wilco Louw and Frans Malherbe have done a rotational switch while injury to fullback SP Marais has seen Dillyn Leyds move from wing to fullback while Bjorn Basson will play on the left wing. Halfback Dewaldt Duvenage is back in the side with Jano Vermaak back on the bench.

Reaching the halfway stage of the competition, and having been without some of the core members of their squad, the Crusaders are in a great position to kick on towards a top finishing place in the second round. No.8 Kieran Read has his second start of the year and with the season at such a crucial stage his presence couldn't be more valuable for the side. And first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga has fully recovered from injury to provide the experienced hand in generalship. Not that his replacement Mitchell Hunt did anything less of than a good job, but it is the knowledge that will be the key thing in the weeks ahead.

Given the ability of Stormers captain for the day Eben Etzebeth, there will be a great deal of interest in his contest with the Crusaders in this department where Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett and Read offer such competitive targets for the South Africans. The South Africans have proven more mobile with the ball, as the Chiefs found to their cost a fortnight ago, but they still showed their ability with the driving maul. Shutting down that option will go a long way toward setting up success for the home side on Saturday.

Crusaders: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Jordan Taufua, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read, 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Luke Romano, 20.Pete Samu, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Manasa Mataele.

Stormers: 1.JC Janse van Rensburg, 2.Bongi Mbonambi, 3.Wilco Louw, 4.Eben Etzebeth (captain), 5.Chris van Zyl, 6.Nizaam Carr, 7.Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8.Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 9.Dewaldt Duvenage, 10.Robert du Preez, 11.Bjorn Basson, 12.Dan du Plessis, 13.EW Viljoen, 14.Cheslin Kolbe, 15.Dillyn Leyds.

Substitutes: 16.Ramone Samuels, 17.Oli Kebble, 18.Frans Malherbe, 19.Jan de Klerk, 20.Cobus Wiese, 21.Jano Vermaak, 22.Kurt Coleman, 23.Dan Kriel.