Crusaders unchanged for Super Rugby semifinal vs Chiefs
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Crusaders have retained an unchanged lineup for Saturday's Super Rugby home semifinal against the Chiefs.
Coach Scott Robertson has retained the 23 players who beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 17-0 in last weekend's quarterfinals to move a step closer to an eighth Super Rugby title.
Flanker Matt Todd and winger Seta Tamanivalu, who were injured last weekend, have been passed fit to play in the knockout match at Christchurch.
There are seven All Blacks in the forward pack announced by Robertson on Thursday, three more in the backline and two on the bench.
"It's good to name the same 23 with no injuries, and a little bit of rhythm, with all the experienced players in the group that have been here a few times," Robertson said. "It was the easiest selection meeting we have had."
The Crusaders beat the Hamilton-based Chiefs 31-24 in Fiji during the regular season — their first win over the two-time champions since 2014. They haven't won back-to-back matches over the Chiefs since 2011.
Conditions are expected to be wet but not as bad as they were for last weekend's match against the Highlanders which took place while Christchurch was under a state of emergency because of flooding.
"Tactically, we were good last week," Robertson said. "It helped give us some belief.
"We have done a lot of homework on how we can be better and there might be some slight adjustments, depending on what the Chiefs throw at us."
Meanwhile, All Blacks center Charlie Ngatai has been selected to start for the Chiefs after missing last weekend's quarterfinal against the Cape Town-based Stormers because of an ankle injury.
Ngatai has played only four matches for the Chiefs this season after returning from a year-long battle with concussion. His return forces former All Blacks flyhalf Stephen Donald to the bench.
Winger Tim Nanai-Williams has been promoted from the bench to the starting lineup in place of Solomon Alaimalo in the only other change to the Chiefs' lineup that beat the Stormers 17-10.
Samoa's Nanai-Williams is making only his seventh appearance in a season in which he has been hampered by shoulder and ankle injuries.
Crusaders: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall; Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Tim Nanai-Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-captain), Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-captain), Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Mitchell Brown, Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames. Replacements: Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross, Atu Moli, Dominic Bird, Lachlan Boshier, Finlay Christie, Stephen Donald, Shaun Stevenson.