The selection of hooker Ti’i Paulo & No 8 Nasi Manu are among six changes that have been made to the Crusaders starting XV for Saturday night’s Rebel Sport Super 14 match against the Cheetahs. It will be the first Super rugby start for both
No 8 Nasi Manu and hooker Ti’i Paulo will receive the first starts of their Rebel Sport Super 14 careers after today being named in the Crusaders line-up for Saturday night’s clash with the Cheetahs at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The CFRU reports that the pair are among six changes that coaches Robbie Deans and Mark Hammett have made to the Crusaders starting XV for the game against the touring South African side.
Winger Sean Maitland, flanker Reuben Thorne, lock Michael Paterson and prop Wyatt Crockett also come into the run on side after not featuring from the start during last Sunday’s come-from-behind 29-24 win over the Western Force in Perth.
“We’ve had a tight turnaround this week, so it’s an appropriate time to freshen the side up a little bit,” Crusaders coach Robbie Deans says.
The Crusaders flew back from Perth immediately after last Sunday’s win, leaving at midnight and arriving in Christchurch on Monday afternoon. The squad returned to the training paddock on Tuesday with a light run at Cashmere High School, prior to a day of rest and recovery yesterday.
“This was always going to be a particularly demanding segment of the competition for us – with three six-day turnarounds – and the travel back from Perth thrown in as well, so managing that is critical. The best way to do that is to make the most of all of the playing resources that are available to us,” Deans says.
Fortunately injury has played only a minor part in the Crusaders’ selection plans.
Although No 8 Mose Tuiali’i limped off towards the end against the Force with an ankle complaint, he has recovered sufficiently to take his place among the run on substitutes.
Young Tasman winger Kade Poki remains on the rehabilitation list after straining his hamstring prior to the Stormers match two weeks ago, but Deans said he was making good progress towards a return.
The side named today features a five-two split between forwards and backs. This is in anticipation of tangling with the big Cheetahs forward pack, and represents the first time the Crusaders have employed that tactic this season.
It is also significant that the starting XV includes just seven players – Scott Hamilton, Casey Laulala, Stephen Brett, Andrew Ellis, Michael Paterson, Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks – who started during last year’s 49-28 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Three of those players – Hamilton, Brett and Franks – will occupy different playing positions from those they held at Vodacom Park last year.
Brett, who started at first-five-eighths in the corresponding game last season, has good reason to remember that occasion with fondness. He scored 21 points en-route to receiving the man of the match award, while Hamilton (twice) and Laulala scored tries.
Hamilton, who operated from fullback in the game last year, has scored in both of the matches that the Crusaders have played against the Cheetahs since they returned to the Super rugby framework in 2006.
While the Cheetahs arrived in Christchurch earlier this week having yet to win from the four matches they have played in the competition to date, Deans was quick to ward off any thoughts of their being a soft touch.
“They’ll be up for it, and they’ll be a threat,” Deans says.
“If you look at the games they’ve played so far, they could easily – and probably should have – beaten each of the Lions, Force, and the Chiefs last weekend. Had they done so, there would be no suggestion from anyone that they were just making up the numbers on the field!”
Even though the Crusaders were able to over-turn a 12-24 second half deficit to beat the Force in their latest match, Deans was quick to dampen the euphoria attached to that success.
“We’ll have to improve, and quickly,” he warned.
“Because the level of our performance in Perth will not be good enough going forward!”
The Crusaders team to play the Cheetahs at AMI Stadium,
StartingXV: 15. Leon MacDonald,14. Scott Hamilton 13. Casey Laulala 12. Stephen Brett 11. Sean Maitland 10. Daniel Carter 9. Andrew Ellis 8. Nasi Manu 7. Richard McCaw, 6. Reuben Thorne 5. Michael Paterson 4. Brad Thorn 3. Ben Franks 2. Ti’i Paulo 1. Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: 16. Corey Flynn 17. Campbell Johnstone 18. Ali Williams 19. Mose Tuiali’i 20. Kahn Fotuali’i 21. Caleb Ralph 22. Kieran Read.