Rugby: Chiefs name reshuffled backline

The Chiefs have rung the changes to their match-day squad to play the Crusaders in Saturday's semifinal, including selecting a new midfield combination, as they search for a way to overturn the recent heavy loss in Christchurch.

The changes come in the backs and the reserves bench, with Andrew Horrell and Charlie Ngatai the team's eighth midfield combination this season.

Second-five Bundee Aki, an impressive performer against the Blues a fortnight ago, has been dropped to the bench. Ngatai comes in for the injured Tim Nanai-Williams, as expected.

Horrell moves from fullback, with Gareth Anscombe getting the nod in the No15 jersey, possibly to allow him to take over the goalkicking from Aaron Cruden, who had an off night with the boot against the Blues at Eden Park. Wing Lelia Masaga retains his place, with Asaeli Tikoirotuma replacing Robbie Robinson on the left wing.

Reserve hooker Mahonri Schwalger has been ruled out with a knee injury, his place taken by Rhys Marshall.

Flanker Tanerau Latimer retains his place, with All Black Sam Cane on the bench.

Prop Ben Afeaki replaces Pauliasi Manu on the bench.

Coach Dave Rennie spoke of the depth in his squad when naming it this afternoon.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder named an unchanged squad this morning.

"We had an enormous amount of injuries in the first half of the campaign. So to win our conference and finish top seed speaks volumes for the culture and depth of our squad,'' Rennie said.

"But at this stage of the season, seedings and previous results count for little. Success for us comes down to a willingness to scrap hard for each other for 80 minutes. The reward, a home final and a shot at another title,'' said Rennie.

There will be a moment's silence to remember Willie Halaifonua from the Takapuna Rugby Club who passed away this week.

Chiefs team to play the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium on Saturday, kick off 7.35pm is: Gareth Anscombe, Lelia Masaga, Charlie Ngatai, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Matt Vant Leven, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Toby Smith. Reserves: Rhys Marshall, Ben Afeaki, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Augustine Pulu, Bundee Aki, Robbie Robinson.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall, Ryan Crotty, Tom Taylor, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Luke Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Adam Whitelock.

- APNZ

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