Chance for Su'a to press claims
Crusaders halfback Jeremy Su'a has been given an early chance to draw first blood.
Samoan international Su'a, who deputised for former Crusader Kahn Fotuali'i during last year's All Blacks' tour of the northern hemisphere, will start tomorrow afternoon's pre-season match against the Hurricanes in Timaru.
Although unlikely to play the full 80 minutes at Alpine Energy Stadium, Su'a will want to prove to coach Todd Blackadder that he is capable of backing up former All Black Andy Ellis in the No 9 jersey this season.
Su'a, who caught Blackadder's eye with his efforts at Tasman last year but has never played Super Rugby, will scrap with Willi Heinz for a place on the bench ahead of the Crusaders' opening match against the Blues at Eden Park on March 1.
Ellis has been listed on the bench for this fixture, while Heinz has not been listed to suit up.
First five-eighth Tyler Bleyendaal is another to be presented with an early chance to enhance his value after drifting behind Tom Taylor during last year's campaign.
Although preferred at No 10 for Canterbury's NPC campaign, Bleyendaal was dropped after a handful of early appearances for the Crusaders earlier in the season and even when All Blacks star Dan Carter was temporarily shifted to second-five there was no room because Taylor was preferred as a goal-kicking No 10.
Blackadder will also get an early chance to assess Tasman openside flanker Shane Christie's ability at this level. With Richie McCaw on his sabbatical and a real chance of not being sighted in Crusaders colours this year, Blackadder will welcome a quality operator who can alleviate the pressure on Matt Todd.
The final score in these fixtures rarely give coaches' sleepless nights and Blackadder, who has named 12 players in the reserves, will be no different. With all his current All Blacks on ice, apart from tighthead prop Owen Franks, this is an opportunity to assess the new players' ability to adhere to game plans, and to monitor their match fitness and hunger to compete. Given both sides will make bulk changes throughout the game, it is unreasonable to expect high-quality performances.
Canterbury academy players Shayne Anderson and James Schrader are in the reserves.
Crusaders: Tom Marshall, James Schrader, Kieran Fonotia, Robbie Fruean, Shayne Anderson, Tyler Bleyendaal, Jeremy Su'a, Jordan Taufua, Shane Christie, George Whitelock (c), Joel Everson, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Paea Fa'anunu, Adrian Barone, Mitch Graham, Ben Funnell, Jimmy Tupou, Matt Simons, Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd, Andy Ellis, Tyrone Elkington, Kolio Hifo, Stephen Burt.