THE CRUSADERS HAVE recalled New Zealand captain Richie McCaw to their starting line-up ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final against the Sharks in Christchurch.
The 33-year-old comes back into the team in the number six shirt, with Matt Todd continuing at openside and Kieran Read skippering the Kiwi side from No. 8.
Head coach Todd Blackadder has made just one further change to the starting XV, with Corey Flynn selected at hooker ahead of Ben Funnell, who is included on the bench.
The recent ploy of playing Dan Carter as a second-five-eighth continues for the Crusaders as Colin Slade remains at out-half and vice-captain Ryan Crotty keeps the 13 jersey.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have made two personnel changes, with the abrasive Jean Deysel coming into the back row. That means a move into the second row for powerhouse Willem Alberts, replacing the injured Anton Bresler.
Out-half Pat Lambie also gets the nod to start on Saturday, meaning Francois Steyn slides to inside centre and Paul Jordaan switches into the 13 slot. JP Pietersen, who was the outside centre last weekend, starts on the right wing, as S’bura Sithole drops to the bench.
Ahead of the weekend’s other semi-final, Brumbies’ Director of Rugby Laurie Fisher has opted against making changes, keeping faith with the selection that beat the Chiefs 32-30 last time out.
Opponents the Waratahs announced earlier this week that fullback Israel Folau would be back in their starting team to face the Brumbies in Sydney, with hard-hitting lock Jacques Potgieter also returning in place of Will Skelton.
Victory for the ‘Tahs on Saturday would ensure a home final for Michael Chieka’s side against either the Crusaders or the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks kicks off at 8.35am Irish time on Saturday, with Waratahs v Brumbies following at 10.30am on the same day.
Crusaders (v Sharks): Israel Dagg; Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo; Colin Slade, Andy Ellis; Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks; Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock; Richie McCaw, Matt Todd, Kieran Read (capt.).
Replacements: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Jordan Taufua, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl.
Sharks (v Crusaders): SP Marais; JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Francois Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo; Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach; Thomas du Toit, Bismarck du Plessis (capt.), Jannie du Plessis; Willem Alberts, Stephan Lewies; Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski.
Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Etienne Oosthuizen, Tera Mtembu, Charl McLeod, S’bura Sithole, Tonderai Chavhanga.
Waratahs (v Brumbies): Israel Folau; Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu; Kane Douglas, Jacques Potgieter; Stephen Hoiles, Michael Hooper (capt.), Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: Tola Latu, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Mitch Chapman, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbon, Matt Carraro, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Cam Crawford [two of whom will be omitted].
Brumbies (v Waratahs): Jesse Mogg; Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Robbie Coleman; Matt Toomua, Nic White; Scott Sio, Josh Mann-Rea, Ben Alexander; Sam Carter, Leon Power; Scott Fardy, Jarrad Butler, Ben Mowen.
Replacements: Ruaidhri Murphy, Ruan Smith, Allan Alaalatoa, Fotu Auelua, Tom McVerry, Michael Dowsett, Joe Tomane, Pat McCabe.