Keo.co.za brings you the latest from New Zealand’s Super 14 franchises.
Ellis fit for Saders
The return of All Blacks scrumhalf Andy Ellis is the only change to the Crusaders’ starting team.
The defending champions face a huge test when they travel to Sydney to take on the Waratahs on Saturday and will do so without many first-choice players such as Richie McCaw, Casey Laulala, Kade Poki and Ben Franks.
The inclusion of Ellis will be a boost for a team desperate for a win against last year’s finalists in order to break a rot of four games without a victory.
The only change to the bench sees lock Michael Paterson in for All Black Ross Filipo.
Crusaders – 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Colin Slade, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Kieran Read (c), 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Daniel Perrin, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Nasi Manu, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Hamish Gard, 22 Blair Cook.
Chiefs bring back Blacks
The Chiefs have recalled All Blacks Sitiveni Sivivatu, Sione Lauaki and Brendon Leonard for their clash with the Blues.
The other changes see opensider Tanerau Latimer and centre Callum Bruce return for Saturday’s match in Hamilton.
Coach Ian Foster is looking for a more complete performance from his charges.
‘We’re starting to show growth in key facets of our game and now need to build concentration over a full 80 minutes,’ said Foster.
‘We are still seeking more consistency, particularly going into a New Zealand derby, which are generally tight, hard fought games – just like we have experienced already this season against the Crusaders and Highlanders.’
Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben May, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Sona Taumalolo. Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 James McGougan, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Serge Lilo, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.
Woodcock only 50-50
Tony Woodcock has been named in the Blues’ team to face the Chiefs but may still be ruled out with an ear infection.
Woodcock withdrew from the Cheetahs match with the condition, while Blues doctor Stephen Kara rated his chance at 50-50.
Coach Pat Lam said he wouldn’t start Woodcock unless he was fully fit.
‘I spoke to him this morning and he’s keen. But he has to be 100%,’ said Lam.
The Blues have struggled to put out a full strength side this season but Lam has the luxury of bracketing returning players Anthony Boric and Paul Williams to his bench.
‘It’s a rarity and it’s really pleasing to be able to do that and get a few boys coming back off injury,’ he said.
‘Hopefully we can get a bit of momentum and we are going to need that this week.’
Blues – 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Justin Collins, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock. Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau/Charlie Faumuina 18 Anthony Boric/Jay Williams, 19 Onosa’i Auva’a, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Jamie Helleur, 22 Paul Williams/Winston Stanley.