Super Rugby

All Blacks star returns for Chiefs in Crusaders derby

Cape Town - All Black Damian McKenzie makes his return for the Chiefs in Saturday's Super Rugby derby against the Crusaders in Hamilton.

Kick-off is at 08:05 (SA time).

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In the backline, scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will combine with the experienced Aaron Cruden who will don the No 10 jersey, with his understudy Kaleb Trask securing a spot on the bench in jersey No 22.

All Black Anton Lienert-Brown will join Quinn Tupaea starting in the midfield at No 12 and 13 respectively, with Alex Nankivell covering on the bench in jersey No 23. The only other change to the talented backline will see the eagerly anticipated return of McKenzie at fullback.

McKenzie was named in the Chiefs’ run-on side ahead of last week’s 37-29 away win over the Blues in Auckland but was a late withdrawal due to a groin strain.

Following an 80-minute performance in the season opener, prop Aidan Ross will again start at loosehead alongside hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho. Joining the pair will be All Black prop Atu Moli in the only change to the forward pack, replacing Nepo Laulala who has been side-lined with a knee injury.

The locking combination of Tyler Ardron and Mitchell Brown alongside flankers Lachlan Boshier and Mitchell Karpik remain unchanged as does Chiefs captain Sam Cane at number eight.

On the bench, Chiefs hooker Bradley Slater will be joined by experienced Bay of Plenty prop in Ross Geldenhuys who will debut for the Chiefs. Fellow debutant Waikato prop Ollie Norris will also look to come off the bench. Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Pita Gus Sowakula will provide loose forward cover once again in addition to All Black Brad Weber covering Tahuriorangi at scrumhalf.

Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland is looking forward to seeing his side challenge the defending title holders.

"Last week we achieved the desired result on the score board, but there were plenty of learnings for the group," he said.

"This week we need to take those learnings an implement them, ensuring we are patient with ball in hand and a nuisance when we are defending. The Crusaders are a formidable pack and set a great challenge for us. The only way we are going to continue to improve is by playing the best, so this will be a great contest for us and one we are preparing well for.

"It is great that we are celebrating our members this weekend. They are the core of our loyal fan base. We know their support will be huge for the team this weekend and we are looking forward to hearing them cheer us on."

Teams:

Chiefs

15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Quinn Tupaea, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Sam Cane (captain), 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross

Substitutes: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Ollie Norris, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Kaleb Trask, 23 Alex Nankivell

Crusaders

15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 David Havili, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetukamkamo Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Oliver Jager, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

Substitutes: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Cullen Grace, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Leicester Faingaanuku

-TeamTalk Media

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