The Crusaders will start their top of the table clash against the Blues this weekend with arguably their best player this season on the bench.

There is no room for star fullback Will Jordan in Scott Robertson's starting side as the Crusaders instead opt for vice-captain David Havili in their 15.

Robertson said he is banking on the team's experience to get the job done, and will look to employ Jordan as a late impact sub off the bench.

"It's obviously a hard decision," Robertson said. "[Jordan's in] red-hot form but when you've got two All Black wings and your vice-captain (Havili) who was probably player of Super Rugby before Covid, we spent a lot of time on the decision on who would start. But the young fella is going to bring a lot off the bench."


With both teams unbeaten, Saturday's game in Christchurch shapes up to be the biggest of the season and the three-time defending Super Rugby champs are expecting a real challenge against a Blues team who are on the back of a string of impressive performances, thanks in part to their influential head coach.

Will Jordan of the Crusaders scores a try. Photo / Photosport
Will Jordan of the Crusaders scores a try. Photo / Photosport

Crusaders captain Codie Taylor was full of praise for Leon MacDonald, who was assistant coach with the Crusaders before leaving for the Blues.

"He's a huge influence and he's a great coach," Taylor said.

"I've had him in 2017 and he was awesome for us and now he's awesome for them. I think he'll have a few tricks up his sleeve come this game because he knows us pretty well.

"We're preparing for a hell of a battle. We know the Blues are playing some bloody good footy. It's going to be a tough task even playing them down at home to get the job done."

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Robertson, a man with a few tricks himself, echoed his skipper's sentiment on MacDonald.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," he said. "Leon's a great coach and that's why I had him in my [proposed] All Black coaching group.

"I knew he is world class and we knew he was going to turn the team around. They've done extremely well with a lot of the local guys in there. It shows how much work ethic and how much care they've got in their group and organisation."

Scott Robertson. Photo / Photosport
Scott Robertson. Photo / Photosport

One area the Blues could look to exploit is the lineout, which Taylor said has been something the Crusaders have been working on.

"Their lineout has been unreal," the All Blacks hooker said. "It's something that's definitely picked up in terms of the accuracy.

"They've got great leaders in that area with Patty (Patrick Tuipulotu) running the calls so it's something they've probably taken pride in. Even their mauls are really good. They'll be a tough pack to stop.

"We've had a few timing issues in games. It's a big part of this team, just being able to nail our process within our structure of the lineout. If we do that then we're usually pretty accurate. I'd say the Blues have seen there's some issues and they'll be looking to apply some pressure there."

Crusaders team to face the Blues at 7.05pm on Saturday in Christchurch:

15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (c), 1 Joe Moody



16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quentin Strange, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Fetuli Paea, 23 Will Jordan