Champs to rest stars brings you the latest from New Zealand’s Super 14 franchises.

Champs to rest loosies

Either Kieran Reid or Thomas Waldrom will sit out of the Crusaders’ clash with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The incumbent champs have targeted this fixture as a ‘should-win’ and thus have decided to give one of the hard-working loose forwards a break.

‘Those guys have had a massive workload,’ Crusaders assistant coach Daryl Gibson told ‘With Thomas it’s a matter of reconfiguring our loose forwards to get an ideal outcome. We’re not sure what the mix will be, but one of those two guys will have a spell of some description this weekend.’

The Crusaders are coming off a win against the Sharks and are rightly confident about downing the Cheetahs. Gibson confirmed that confidence does not amount to arrogance, as the Crusaders still hold the central franchise in high regard.

‘That’s probably the real challenge for us now. We’re playing against a team we should beat.

‘But we saw they gave the Chiefs a few problems, and it wasn’t until the last quarter that they came away with the win. And the Cheetahs beat the Sharks the week before that. We will certainly not be underestimating them, particularly on their home ground.

‘All the guys are acutely aware of the dangers of being over-confident. We all know to progress in this competition we have to keep winning, especially with the logjam between first and tenth.’

Richie McCaw will continue to lead the side, but All Blacks scrumhalf Andy Ellis could also get a break. Ellis injured his ribs three weeks ago and is still battling with the ailment.

Cowan to face Stormers

Jimmy Cowan has been found not guilty of foul play and will front the Stormers in Dunedin this Friday.

Cowan was red-carded for a dangerous tackle in last week’s loss to the Blues, but a judicial hearing has ruled his actions require no further punishment.

The tackle was deemed fair despite the referee’s view of it and video footage revealed that the tackle was made within less than a second after Jimmy Gopperth had kicked the ball. The tackle was also not high, but precluded the use of arms.

Cowan, captain and talisman of the Mullet Men, will now rejoin the Highlanders as they aim to bounce back from that defeat with a win over the struggling Stormers.

Chiefs duo cleared

Richard Kahui and James McGougan have been cleared by the Sanzar judiciary hearing but Brendon Leonard could be out for the rest of the campaign.

Kahui (dangerous tackle) and McGougan (trampling) were cited during the Chiefs’ 28-10 win over the Cheetahs.

McGougan pleaded guilty to his charge from an incident that was reported to referee Nathan Pearce by his touch judge. The Chiefs were penalised at the time.

On review of the video evidence the judicial officer issued a reprimand and decided to take no further action.

Kahui pleaded not guilty to a “spear” tackle in the 78th minute of the match on Cheetahs replacement Frans Viljoen.

The Chiefs presented footage of the incident that was not available to the citing commissioner at the time which showed no lifting of the player and driving of him into the ground and Kahui was therefore cleared.

Leonard suffered a sternoclavicular joint injury against the Cheetahs and could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines. David Bason has been called up as cover.

Williams set to boost Blues

The Blues look set to have a group of key players headed by Ali Williams back for the business end of a Super 14.

Williams, Tasesa Lavea and Justin Collins are all possibilities to play the Reds at Albany on Saturday evening.

‘They is definitely a lot better chance this week than they were last week,’ said Lam.

And the Blues are a lot better chance of making the playoffs this week than they were last week too, leaping to fifth on a table that sees just five points separating the top eight sides.

The Blues’ push for the play-offs comes on the back of consecutive wins over the Lions and Highlanders after they had lost four of their previous seven games.

Williams would certainly boost the second row area where an awful lot has been asked of Kurtis Haiu, and Anthony Boric has started to hit his straps.

Williams’ season has been seriously stalled by back and Achilles injuries and the Blues want him are keen to have him back at his best.

This thread will be updated throughout the day.