Crusaders give returning players a run
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Crusaders will play the Highlanders for the third time this season in a warm-up game in Timaru this Thursday.
The game is in preparation for the final round of Super Rugby regular play the following week, followed by the start of the finals series in which both teams are guaranteed a spot.
No.8 Jordan Taufua will captain the team with fellow loose-forward Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and reserve scrumhalf Bryn Hall as his vice-captains.
The "friendly" will be an opportunity for a number of players to return to play for the Crusaders following injuries earlier in the season, including Tim Perry who will start at loosehead prop; Mitchell Dunshea who will start at lock; and outside backs Jone Macilai and Digby Ioane who will come off the bench.
Five players from outside of the Crusaders squad - Chris Gawler, Jonno Osbourne, Shannon Frizell, Braydon Ennor and Vernon Fredericks - will also get the chance to have a run off the bench.
Robertson says the game is a great chance for the team to reconnect as they head into the next phase of the Super Rugby competition: "After a month with no fixtures, the team is fizzing and ready to take the field on Thursday. This game will be a great opportunity for us to find our rhythm again and test our match readiness against a top quality side."
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Sean Wainui, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua (captain), 7 Jed Brown, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements - from: Andrew Makalio, Chris Gawler, Oliver Jager, Jonno Osbourne, Shannon Frizell, Bryn Hall, Marty McKenzie, Braydon Ennor, Jone Macilai, Vernon Fredericks, Digby Ioane.
Date: Thursday, July 6
Venue: Alpine Energy Stadium, Timaru
Kick-off: 15.00 (03.00 GMT)
Assistant referees: TBC