Century celebration for ‘Saders duo

Reuben Thorne and Caleb Ralph will play their 100th Vodacom Super 14 match when the Crusaders meet the Reds in Brisbane.

The loose forward and utility back have both played a major role in the Crusaders’ domination of the southern-hemisphere competition – and are hoping to celebrate the twin milestones with yet another victory. Ralph has played 90 consecutive matches at this level since coming into the red and blacks line-up, while Thorne continues to excel for the franchise despite his demotion from the national side.

Coach Robbie Deans has made just one injury-enforced change to his starting XV, with Casey Laulaula coming in to replace the injured Scott Hamilton.

There is one notable change on the Crusaders bench where Auckland draft player Brad Mika comes in to replace specialist lock Kevin O’Neill. Mika can play No 8, blindside or the second row and should be used as an impact player.

Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald shrugged off any suggestions of the Brisbane heat and humidity being a factor working against the Crusaders.

“Other than the ball being slippery with sweat like on Saturday night [against the Highlanders], the heat is only a problem if you let it become a problem,” he said.

Crusaders:

15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Kevin Senio; 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Greg Somerville.
Subs: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Brad Mika, 19 Johnny Leo’o, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Cameron McIntyre, 22 Steven Yates.

Reds:

15 Chris Latham (c), 14 Henari Veratau, 13 Julian Huxley, 12 Elton Flatley, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Sam Cordingley; 8 Mitchell Chapman, 7 David Croft, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Mark Connors, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes.
Subs: 16 Tom Court, 17 Stephen Moore, 18 Cameron Treloar, 19 Tom McVerry, 20 Josh Valentine, 21 Lloyd Johansson, 22 Caleb Brown.