The Chiefs are braced for a huge derby in Hamilton tonight against southern rivals the Crusaders.

The 2017 champions return to FMG Stadium Waikato for the first time since 2015, when the Chiefs put in a clinical performance to run out 40-16 winners.

Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper has named an unchanged starting side from the one that beat the Waratahs last Saturday, with key figure Sam Cane returning from injury to the bench.

"We've picked a very similar team to the one that performed well against the Waratahs. The bench will bring a lot of excitement and spark. We're really pleased with the quality we have available, it's a big boost having Sam back," Cooper says.


Cane is one of six Bay of Plenty forwards named in the playing 23.

Hooker Nathan Harris and openside flanker Mitch Karpik will start, with Cane, hooker Liam Polwart, prop Jeff Thwaites and loose forward Jesse Parete on the bench.

Angus Ta'avao and Karl Tu'inukuafe continue in the front row either side of Harris.

Brodie Retallick and Michael Allardice start in the number four and five jerseys, and Luke Jacobson, Karpik and Liam Messam make up the loose forward trio.

Charlie Ngatai will start in the midfield again with All Black Anton Lienert-Brown, after a top performance last weekend.

Cooper is aware of the Crusaders' threat at the set piece and is emphasising discipline for the team's success tonight.

"They are really strong in the set piece so it'll be a big contest at the scrums and lineouts. Discipline is the key going into this game, but we're excited to be on our home ground, which is an advantage."

He was also thrilled with the attacking flair the team showed against the Waratahs.

"The Waratahs game has given us a lot of confidence to play the attacking game we want to play against the Crusaders. It's about knowing your role and having that confidence."

The game will be the last before the international June break, with the competition commencing back again at the beginning of July.

The next home game for the Gallagher Chiefs will be against the Brumbies with an early kick off of 5.15pm on Saturday, July 7, at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Chiefs team v Crusaders
1. Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2. Nathan Harris, 3. Angus Ta'avao, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Michael Allardice, 6. Luke Jacobson, 7. Mitchell Karpik, 8. Liam Messam, 9. Brad Weber , 10. Damian McKenzie, 11. Sean Wainui, 12. Charlie Ngatai, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 14. Toni Pulu, 15. Solomon Alaimalo
Reserves: 16. Liam Polwart, 17. Sam Prattley, 18. Jeff Thwaites, 19. Jesse Parete, 20. Sam Cane, 21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22. Marty McKenzie, 23. Shaun Stevenson