Sam Whitelock says he is focused on the team's performance instead of the controversy over the team's name, as the Crusaders prepare for an emotional return to action on Saturday.

The Crusaders face the Waratahs in Sydney in their first game since the terror attacks in Christchurch last Friday, with last Saturday's Highlanders clash having been cancelled.

Since then, the Crusaders' name has come under the microscope with many labelling it highly offensive and inappropriate, especially during a time when the muslim community and the rest of the country is reeling from such a devastating attack.

The Crusaders captain says he hasn't given much thought to the Crusaders name controversy or what the team might be called if it is to change, and believes it's his job to lead the team towards producing a good performance for the Christchurch community and the rest of the country on Saturday.


"To be honest, I haven't really put much thought into it," he told the media. "I'm trying to drive myself and the boys around performance this week because if we can go out there and perform, and show everyone - Christchurch, our region and the country - how we're feeling, I think hopefully we can put a smile on some people's faces even if it is just for 80 minutes of a rugby game.

"So that's our main priority at the moment and if we can do that I think it will help and be one of those steps into seeing a few more positives."

The 30-year-old echoed comments made by Crusaders management that conversations around the team name needs to be had, and assured that they will try and "do the right thing by everyone".

"There's definitely conversations that need to be had. It's hard for us as rugby players. We like to get in there and try and do things straightaway but it's not the right time for that.

"So we need to step back as we have and give everyone space. Especially the families that are affected, the last thing they want to do is have questions like that asked.

"In time, those questions will be asked and it will be a good discussion ... and we'll address that when that time comes, but that right time is not now. We'll try and do the right thing by everyone."

Sam Whitelock. Photo / Photosport
Sam Whitelock. Photo / Photosport

Whitelock will lead a Crusaders side that will be without Richie Mo'unga and Scott Barrett, who will both be seeing out their enforced All Blacks leave.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson confirmed that last week's cancelled fixture did not count as one of the agreed upon stand down weeks because the All Black duo trained with the team. Players must sit out the week entirely, under the Super Rugby franchises' agreement with NZ Rugby.


One-cap All Black Brett Cameron comes into the team for Mo'unga at first-five while Quentin Strange replaces Barrett in the No4 jersey.

Whitelock also confirmed that they would honour the victims of the mosque attacks with the Waratahs before kickoff.

"We're going to get together with the Waratahs before the kickoff. It's going to be pretty cool. They're hurting just like we are. To do it together, to show that everyone is united is going to be pretty awesome."

Crusaders: David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Brett Cameron, Bryn Hall, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Samuel Whitelock (captain), Quinten Strange, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, George Bower.

Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Harry Allan, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Tom Sanders, Ere Enari, Mitchell Hunt, Will Jordan.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Alex Newsome, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jed Halloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes.

Reserves: Andrew Tuala, Rory O'Connor, Chris Talakai, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Wells, Jake Gordon, Mack Mason, Karmichael Hunt.