Money over sentiment has prompted the Crusaders to play their first 'home' game of the upcoming Super Rugby season at Napier instead of Nelson or Timaru.

With Addington's Rugby League Park unavailable until the fifth-round match against the Cheetahs on March 24 at the earliest, the Crusaders board opted to play the Chiefs at Napier's McLean Park. Nelson and Timaru were considered but Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said finances made it a simple decision to opt for the Hawke's Bay.

"Having lost $700,000 last year, we are extremely conscious of the financial implications of all our decisions this year, and the extra return from playing at McLean Park is significant,'' Riach said.

"We played there last season and had fantastic support and we believe that support will be there again this year.


"Both [Timaru and Nelson] gave us tremendous support last season and, while we know there will be disappointment that we are not returning for a match in 2012, we hope our fans in those cities understand the reasons for the decision.''

The Crusaders played two regular-season matches and a playoff game in Nelson last year because of the damage to AMI Stadium caused by February's earthquakes.

They averaged 10,000 at these games but attracted 14,000 at McLean Park for a fixture against the Chiefs.

They hope to attract a similar figure this time and believe the presence of Hawke's Bay products Israel Dagg, Zac Guildford and Ross Kennedy, along with four Chiefs from the region, will drive a good crowd.