Tim Perry has plenty to prove against Chiefs
Tim Perry's arrival at the Crusaders seemed a curious move.
Coach Todd Blackadder's decision to select Perry in his squad raised questions as to why he needed another loosehead when All Blacks specialist Wyatt Crockett and international-in-waiting Joe Moody were already on his books.
His reasoning was sound: With Sanzar allowing an extra prop in the reserves he required another bookend and Perry, a Tasman player, appeared a solid addition as backup to Crockett and Moody.
Still, nobody expected Blackadder to heave such a grenade into the works this week when he preferred Perry to start ahead of Crockett for the Super Rugby opener against the Chiefs in Christchurch tonight.
Moody remains unavailable because he is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered playing for Canterbury in last year's NPC final but Crockett, who has chalked up 24 test caps, was raring to go.
Blackadder emphasised he was rewarding Perry for pre-season form, adding he was looking forward to observing an irritated Crockett's reaction when he left the bench.
Perry had to take a gamble of his own when deciding to compete for a starting spot against Crockett and Moody.
"I did think about that but I thought I would learn a lot by trying to push some of the best out of their spots. I just looked at it from a learning point of view."
Ashburton-born Perry, who attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, had sound reasons for returning to the city: He considers the Mainland home.
"I had sort of signed a deal up there but I was able to get out of it and ideally I wanted to come back and play for my home region," Perry added.
"It was something I wanted to do. I had always supported the Crusaders, and guys who are coaching me now were my heroes back when I was playing as a kid. I enjoyed my time up there [in Auckland] but Dave ]Hewett] and Todd gave me a ring and said they would be keen to have me if I was keen."
Last year Perry, whose father, Grant, played one match for the All Blacks against Fiji in 1980, made seven appearances for the Blues in an injury-interrupted season.
His decision to leave Auckland was made easier after All Blacks loosehead prop Tony Woodcock lasted just one year at the Highlanders and announced he was going back to the Blues. Another All Black, Charlie Faumuina, is considered a tighthead but can play both sides.
Perry has a job on his hands in the set pieces tonight, with hefty tighthead Ben Tameifuna at times proving an agitator against the Crusaders in the past.
Rather than dwell too long on last year's 20-19 semifinal loss to the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium, the Crusaders may also reflect what they did well in their 43-15 win over the eventual champions in Christchurch three weeks earlier.
The major difference is that Dan Carter is on his sabbatical. If Perry and his pack prevent the Chiefs' forwards disrupting the ball to halfback Andy Ellis around the breakdowns, playmaker Tyler Bleyendaal has every reason to make a confident, error-free start.