All Black David Havili will resume fullback duties in the talent-laden Crusaders backline that will take on the Chiefs in their Super Rugby Pacific game in Christchurch on Friday.
The return of Jack Goodhue to second five-eighths and Braydon Ennor at centre gives the side international quality across the backline. Every member of the starting backline has played for the All Blacks.
Coach Scott Robertson explained the selection rationale.
“Dave’s a great team man and we asked him to go to fullback this week as it was important we get our best team on. He’s a world-class 12 [second five-eighths] and he’s been a world-class 15 [fullback] and he even played on the wing for the Crusaders at the start so he can slot in anywhere. We felt this was the best team to play the Chiefs.”
Adding to the experience in the side are loosehead prop Joe Moody and blindside flanker Ethan Blackadder also returning from injury.
All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock won’t play after suffering a head knock in pre-season work, and it was felt he would benefit from an extra week off.
Robertson said it was a hell of a game to open with. Both teams were quality sides who had a lot of history between them.
The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific champions will be _____________ pic.twitter.com/yxXmKRtg9z— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) February 22, 2023
He said the Chiefs were a side with the capacity to go deep and could create so much.
“They’re physical. They’re tough. We love playing them, and they love playing us. There’s a lot of history and wee bit more on it [the result] for whatever reason.
He said there hadn’t been time for reflection on starting his seventh season with the side.
“Once you get into the daily grind of it, there were some good things along the way but probably the biggest thing is you just want to enjoy it.”
There probably wasn’t so much enjoyment in his first year. But now, with a great group of coaches and a terrific organization around him, it was possible to enjoy because of the experience of those around him.
Robertson played a straight bat to queries around chasing a seventh consecutive title by saying they were concentrating on getting things right at the outset.
“You need to evolve as the year goes along. That’s what we’ve learnt over the last six [years].”