Four months after his entrance as an All Black, Sonny Bill Williams will play his first game of Super rugby.

With his innate sense of drama, he could hardly have a more emotionally charged stage for his Crusaders debut.

The Crusaders travel to Nelson today for their first "home" game of the season and their first since the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch nine days ago.

The convert from league describes himself as one of the "lucky" ones. He's been unable to access his central city apartment, crashing at a mate's place, and yesterday revealed that his mum, Lee, had wanted him back in Auckland in the days after the quake.

"But there are a lot of people much worse off than us," he said. "There's a lot of destruction. I count myself lucky and I know the rest of the boys do too.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there and doing Cantabrians proud and hopefully getting back to a little normality. It will be emotional for us at the game but we'll have to keep things in check to be able to compete."

To that end, Todd Blackadder yesterday brought mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka into their temporary camp at Lincoln.

"It was great to have that conversation about the trauma that everyone has gone through," the Crusaders coach said. "It's a very abnormal situation and it's normal to feel stressed but we trained very well, a great sign from the players that they're ready. We trained like demons, actually."

With heavy irony, tomorrow's clash is also the match designated by the Crusaders as a fundraiser for the Pike River mining disaster which claimed 29 lives in November.

The Crusaders will be wearing the red and white livery of the West Coast in special edition jerseys that will be auctioned. Williams' popularity and profile should ensure his No 12 will be one of the most sought-after.

Williams last played a game of rugby when the All Blacks beat Wales at Cardiff on November 28 to complete a fourth Grand Slam. He has spent more time in the boxing ring than on the field since, winning his second professional heavyweight bout in January.

A stress fracture to his foot ruled him out of the Crusaders' opener - a 24-22 loss to the Blues at Eden Park.

So much has happened since that dizzying night that rugby has been one of the furthest things from the minds of New Zealanders, and Cantabrians in particular, but Williams said he felt fitter now than when he joined Canterbury last year.

During that campaign, he struck up a potentially frightening midfield combination with Robbie Fruean, a duo that will be tested by the Waratahs.

The New South Welshmen have been awesome in the opening two rounds, but they have yet to come up against a forward pack as physically unrelenting as the Crusaders', or an attacking force spearheaded by the likes of Dan Carter, Williams and Fruean.

To accommodate Williams, Adam Whitelock, who played second-five as a stop-gap in the round against the Blues, moves to the left wing replacing the injured Tu Umaga-Marshall.

The only other changes will be on the bench - where Tasmanites Quentin MacDonald and Tom Marshall join the 22.

The Waratahs - coming off thumping 43-0 and 30-6 wins over the Rebels and Reds respectively - have made one change to their starting 15. Daniel Halangahu replaces injured first five-eighths Berrick Barnes, who suffered a head knock against the Reds.

Nelson, 7.35pm tomorrow
Israel Dagg
Sean Maitland
Robbie Fruean
Sonny Bill Williams
Adam Whitelock
Daniel Carter
Andy Ellis
Kieran Read (c)
Matt Todd
George Whitelock
Sam Whitelock
Brad Thorn
Owen Franks
Corey Flynn
Wyatt Crockett

Kurtley Beale
Lachie Turner
Rob Horne
Tom Carter
Drew Mitchell
Daniel Halangahu
Luke Burgess
Ben Mowen
Phil Waugh (c)
Dave Dennis
Kane Douglas
Dean Mumm
Al Baxter
Tatafu Polota-Nau
Sekope Kepu

Crusaders: Quentin MacDonald, Ben Franks, Chris Jack, Jonathan Poff, Willi Heinz, Matt Berquist, Tom Marshall.

Waratahs: Damien Fitzpatrick, Benn Robinson, Sitaleki Timani, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Ryan Cross, Afa Pakalani.