This all-Crusaders Premiership final could be billed as the 'Battle of the broken bones.'

There will be more strapping than usual as Canterbury lock Dominic Bird suits up with a broken foot, in the best traditions of Richie McCaw, while Tasman hooker Andrew Makalio and talismanic departing No 10 Marty Banks will both play with fractured hands.

Banks then heads to Treviso to further his extraordinary career.

The Makos would doubtless all be prepared to play with breakages if it meant they could annex their first top level provincial title in their 11th season of existence.


They are the form team, with seven consecutive victories, the comers who gave a solid account of themselves in the 2014 final before falling to Taranaki. They have an effective and all-purpose pack, impact off the bench via the likes of All Black Kane Hames and David Havili, and the trump card in Banks. All that package is marshalled by the astute coaching duo of Leon MacDonald and Mark Hammett, who have won the tactical battle in most games in 2016.

Replacement lock Paripari Parkinson was running around 12 months ago for St Kentigern College in Auckland's 1A First XV competition but has impressed all.

For all the positives from the Makos' season, their pedigree cannot match that of Canterbury, who are primed for an eighth provincial crown in nine seasons. Do that, and they would trump even the great Auckland sides of 1987-96, who won eight out of 10 titles, two runs of four split by Otago and Waikato victories. That 1987-90 Auckland team is fit to rank as the greatest provincial juggernaut the world has ever seen, but Scott Robertson's charges have carved out an imposing record without access to much of their best talent on All Blacks duty.

Fullback Johnny McNicholl plays his 60th and possibly final game for Canterbury before he heads to the Scarlets in Wales, while Robertson himself moves up to the Crusaders after overseeing the 2013 and 2015 Canterbury triumphs.

Centre Jack Goodhue is out with a hamstring tear, so Rob Thompson, freshly named as a Maori All Black injury replacement, comes into No 12 and Jordie Barrett, happily allowed to play before joining the All Blacks to hold the tackle shields, shifts to centre. His older brother Scott did not receive such dispensation, but it will not unduly disadvantage the home side.

"I could not be more proud of this 2016 Canterbury team and all that they have achieved. Nine wins from 11 games so far, a top of the table placing, the Ranfurly Shield, and just one last prize to try and claim on Saturday night. This challenge will be our biggest one yet, but I know that this team has the talent and the heart to face it," says Robertson, who, it seems, is unlikely to bow out with his breakdance routine should Canterbury get up.

Tasman's heavy 45-14 defeat to Canterbury early in this Mitre 10 Cup carries little relevance now.

*Live commentary of this match is on Radio Sport and iHeart Radio from 7.35pm on Saturday.
Canterbury: Johnny McNicholl, Nathan Earle, Jordie Barrett, Rob Thompson, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Ere Enari, Luke Whitelock (c), Tom Sanders, Reed Prinsep, Dominic Bird, Dave McDuling, Siate Tokolahi, Ben Funnell, Daniel Lienert-Brown; Reserves: Nathan Vella, Alex Hodgman, Oli Jager, Jed Brown, Billy Harmon, Jack Stratton, Inga Finau, Ben Volavola

Tasman: Mitchell Hunt, Viliami Lolohea, Kieron Fonotia, Alex Nankivell, James Lowe, Marty Banks, Billy Guyton, Pete Samu, Shane Christie (c), Shannon Frizell, Alex Ainley, Quinten Strange, Ross Geldenhuys, Andrew Makalio, Tim Perry; Reserves: Jesse MacDonald, Kane Hames, Siua Halanukonuka, Paripari Parkinson, Ethan Blackadder, Finlay Christie, David Havili, Caleb Makene

Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final
Canterbury v Tasman
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday, 7.35pm