The Crusaders have named their squad to take on the Blues this Saturday, 18 March, at Eden Park.
Round Four of Super Rugby Pacific 2023 brings up a rematch of the 2022 final, when Crusaders took out their sixth title beating the Blues 21-7 at home. Always a great Kiwi derby, both teams are set to front a strong pack in Auckland.
On debut is Pepesana Patafilo, set to make an impact off the bench. On his selection, Patafilo said he was “surprised and excited”.
Previously with the Hurricanes, Patafilo made the move south late last year and said the “attention to detail in the Crusaders environment is next level”.
Scott Robertson, Crusaders Head Coach, said Patafilo brought huge energy to the team.
“He works hard and tops a lot of our stats in our GPS tracking during training. So, we’re excited for him and so is he,” Robertson said.
Hooker Codie Taylor returns to the front row alongside Joe Moody and Tamaiti Williams, with Brodie McAlister, Kershawl Sykes-Martin and George Bower on impact. Sykes-Martin debuted last week in Fiji.
No more than 11 capped All Blacks will look to take the field on Saturday, including the likes of Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Ethan Blackadder, Braydon Ennor and Richie Mo’unga.
“It’s going to be a hell of a weekend,” Robertson said.
“We’ve had some historic games over the last few years haven’t we. They beat us at home, we’ve beat them up there and they’ve got some awesome rugby players playing for them.”
Sevu Reece and Leicester Fainga’anuku are taking the wings while Braydon Ennor and Dallas McLeod are covering centre. Fergus Burke returns to full back.
Coming off a loss in Fiji against the Drua last weekend, Robertson said the team showed a lot of effort “but it’s the execution part we’ve really focused on this week”.
“It’s another big game for us, another great opportunity for our players to go out and perform at a great local derby.”
“It’s great to have our hookers back, they weren’t available last week, and we decided to give our All Blacks the opportunity to have a rest week, so we welcome them back too.
Kick-off Saturday night at 7:05pm, Eden Park Auckland.