Wellington - Super Rugby leaders Crusaders
are raring to give retiring Andy Ellis a "memorable night" when the
popular scrumhalf makes his 150th appearance in their trans-Tasman showdown
against the Waratahs on Friday.
Round 13 sees the cream of New Zealand and
Australia square off in Christchurch while South Africa's headliners, the
Coastal Stormers and Bulls, battle each other in Pretoria.
The Crusaders, while still top of the
competition, are hurting after last week's loss to defending champions Highlanders,
and have played the Ellis impact card in preparation for their Waratahs clash.
The long-serving scrumhalf will be playing
his 150th Super game and has chosen this week to announce his retirement from
the competition at the end of this season.
Coach Todd Blackadder led the rallying cry,
saying Ellis was "such a popular member of this team and we all want this
to be a memorable night for him".
"It is particularly special for Andy
to mark this milestone in front of a home crowd. This is the last home game
we'll play until July," he said.
The Crusaders, who have made two changes
with All Blacks Joe Moody and Ryan Crotty rotated to the starting fifteen, are
on 37 points, the same as Chiefs and the Highlanders but with a better points
The Waratahs, who have won their last four
games including victories over both the Stormers and Bulls, head the Australian
conference with 30 points.
But their depth will be tested with the
costly loss of Wasps-bound Kurtley Beale who suffered a season-ending knee
injury in the first minute of last week's victory over the Bulls.
The 21-year-old David Horwitz will start at
inside centre in Beale's place, tasked with containing the experienced Crotty.
While the Waratahs are safe at the top of
the Australian conference this week as the Brumbies have a bye, the
Crusaders will be mindful of the threat from the Chiefs who play the Melbourne
Rebels in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Chiefs, fresh from a bye last week,
held a "brutal" review of their loss to the Highlanders the previous
week, according to co-captain Sam Cane, and now have a clear idea of what they
need to do to get back on top.
The Rebels also go into the game off a loss
after being beaten 30-22 by the Brumbies and lie seven points adrift of the Waratahs.
The Stormers lead the Bulls by a mere three
points at the top of the Africa 1 conference with both sides having won six of
10 games and the difference on the table coming from the Stormers ability to
regularly pick up a losing bonus point.
The Stormers will be hit by the absence of
captain Juan de Jongh who has a hamstring injury, robbing the game of a
match-up between de Jongh and the Springbok midfield pair of Jan Serfontein and
"This is an important game for us and
obviously we'd like to have our strongest team available for it, so it is a big
blow," coach Robbie Fleck said.
However, the silver lining for Fleck was
news that lock kingpin Eben Etzebeth is ready to play again.
There is unlikely to be any change in the
Africa 2 conference where the leaders Golden Lions play a depleted Jaguares who
have both captain Agustin Creevy and backrower Leonardo Senatore suspended.
The Sharks, who lie second in that
conference, play the bottom-placed Kings.
The Force host the Blues in Perth while the
Reds are at home to the Sunwolves in Brisbane.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mika Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 David Havili, 23 Marty McKenzie
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Davie Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Substitutes: 16 Angus Ta’avao, 17 Hugh Roach, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Matt Carraro, 23 Zac Guildford