Scott Robertson: Crusaders make eight changes for Highlanders match
A surprise selection in the Crusaders front row for their Super Rugby match with the Highlanders this weekend. George Bower replaces the injured Joe Moody at loosehead prop, with Harry Allen remaining on the bench. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson says Bower is a strong, versatile prop forward. There are eight changes to the Crusaders starting fifteen including a first appearance of the season for captain Sam Whitelock. "Every team has to go in with confidence," says Whitelock. "They're a good pack and will be trying to build on the success they've had this year. They'll be excited by that. That's our challenge. We have to go down to their home patch." All Black Whitelock's return could hardly have come at a better time – especially with his Crusaders and national teammate Scott Barrett putting in such a busy start to the year. Barrett is due for a rest next week when the Crusaders play the Waratahs in Sydney, as is Richie Mo'unga. "It's good in a couple of ways," Robertson said of Whitelock's return. "We've grown a couple of other leaders while he's been away and he's keen and energetic and as good a nick physically as he's been for a few years. "When Skip first said he'd be away you think 'well, how are we going to deal with it' because he's been a big part of our success but he's been working behind the scenes and he comes back with great energy." Whitelock said his priority would be to get through as many minutes as he can, adding that he felt the toll of a busy year while with the All Blacks in November. "I felt in a pretty good space but lacked a little bit of that last five or 10 per cent especially in those first couple of steps out of a breakdown or getting off the ground," he said. "If you take that away for a player that can be frustrating but it's in the past now and I'm pretty happy." Crusaders team to play Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is: 15 David Havili, 14 Braydon Ennor, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower. Reserves: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allen, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quentin Strange, 20 Tom Sanders 21 Ere Enari, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Will Jordan.