The Crusaders have sprung a number of surprises in their team for the Vodacom Super 14 final against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Daniel Carter will cover halfback as expected. Reuben Thorne returns to the blindside flanker role with specialist lock Ross Filipo coming back into the mix after Thorne has been in the second
row for the last three vital wins.
And the Crusaders have got plenty of loose forward cover on the bench with two opensides Tanerau Latimer and Johnny Leo’o waiting there.
But there is no specialist halfback in the reserves following the knee injury to Andy Ellis.
That means Kevin Senio starts and the Crusaders will be hoping he lasts the distance.
Their other option there is Carter, the world’s best flyhalf who has played halfback before in his age-group days. He was also used as halfback cover by the All Blacks during the 2003 World Cup when New Zealand played Tonga.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, breathed a collective sigh of relief as Ma’a Nonu came through training on Thursday with no problems, allowing coach Colin Cooper to name an unchanged lineup.
Nonu sent a scare through the ‘Canes camp earlier in the week when he was troubled by an ongoing hamstring injury that was giving him related problems in his lower back.
The 22 players named for this final showed a heady mix of grit and innovation to get past the Waratahs last week and make their first final.
David Holwell has also been cleared of the heavy knock to the head he took in the semi-final win to take his place at No 10 for what is likely to be his last Super rugby match.
Crusaders: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Kevin Senio, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Campbell Johnstone, 18 Johnny Leo’o, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Stephen Brett, 21 Cameron McIntyre, 22 Caleb Ralph.
Hurricanes: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Lome Fa’atau, 13 Ma’a Nonu, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Shannon Paku, 10 David Holwell, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So’oialo (c), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Paul Tito, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger. Reserves: 16 Luke Mahoney, 17 Joe McDonnell, 18 Luke Andrews, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Brendan Haami, 21 Jimmy Gopperth, 22 Tamati Ellison.