Crusaders' Fruean in mix for Bulls showdown
Centre Robbie Fruean has been recalled to the Crusaders starting lineup for Saturday's Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Bulls and two All Blacks will bolster the tight five.
Fruean was dropped for last week's win over the Western Force but head coach Todd Blackadder and assistant Daryl Gibson have plumped for him to face a Bulls midfield led by evergreen Springbok Wynand Olivier.
Adam Whitelock, who started at centre in Fruean's absence last week, returns to his regular right wing berth with Sean Maitland dropping to the reserves bench at Christchurch's AMI Stadium.
Whitelock's defensive qualities will be vital against the Bulls' pacy right wing Bjorn Basson, Super Rugby's joint top try-scorer this season with 10 touchdowns.
After two games riding the pine, Wyatt Crockett returns at loosehead prop with All Blacks team-mate Ben Franks reverting to the impact role and brother Owen retained at tighthead.
World Cup All Black Sam Whitelock is back in the middle of the Crusaders lineout after he was rested for Tom Donnelly last week.
But Kieran Read will not get a chance to pit his skills against Bulls skipper Pierre Spies. The much-anticipated battle between the world's two best No 8s will be postponed until the Rugby Championship test series with Read failing to recover from a rib problem.
Blackadder has again plumped for captain Richie McCaw in Read's role at the back of the scrum ahead of first-year rookie Luke Whitelock. Matt Todd, arguably the Crusaders' best player against the Force, will start again on the openside flank.
Blackadder said Saturday's showdown was "about more than" playing for a semifinal place against either the Chiefs or the Stormers.
“This is obviously our most important match yet this season. But it's not just about the footy this weekend.
"This is about Crusaders fans getting another opportunity to come together and show that our spirit is still strong after all that has happened to us [through the earthquakes].
“We are so grateful to our supporters for helping us get as far as we have this season.
"Just by being at the stadium for the Bulls game, they will be helping us towards another win,” Blackadder said.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has welcomed back Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe, who missed last week's game against the Lions with a hip problem. "We ruled him out last week, but he's fine and fit and ready to go," Ludeke said yesterday.
Van der Merwe replaces Wilhelm Steenkamp in the only change to the Bulls' run-on team.
The Bulls will field an experienced squad with 11 of their 22 players boasting Super Rugby winners' medals.
Van der Merwe, skipper Pierre Spies, Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Dean Greyling have all enjoyed success in the past.
CRUSADERS: Israel Dagg, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw (captain), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Ben Franks, Tom Donnelly, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Sean Maitland.
BULLS: Zane Kirchner Akona Ndungane, J J Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter , Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Reserves: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Deon Stegmann, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouchè, Francois Venter.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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