Load management has dictated the makeup of the Crusaders side to take the field this weekend in their second of back-to-back matches on Australian soil in Super Rugby Transtasman.
Coach Scott Robertson's elected to give utility back David Havili a rest from his role at second-five-eighth, handing Richie Mo'unga the sole playmaking duties in the number 10 jumper against the Waratahs in Wollongong.
It brings an end to a lengthy run for Havili in the midfield, having started the last nine games in the 12 jumper. It will also only be the second game of 2021 he hasn't started for the red and blacks, the first of which was in their Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Highlanders.
Robertson says Havili deserves a long-awaited rest.
"He's had a massive load, played big minutes and important minutes, and performed the whole way through – one of the form players of the comp, and we thought it was a great opportunity for us to freshen him up," he says.
"Also a great opportunity for Dallas McLeod, who took a couple of games at the start of the season and played extremely well when he had those chances."
While the Mo'unga-Havili experiment at 10/12 has paid dividends for the Crusaders in 2021, on the two occasions they've elected for a different combination results haven't suffered, with victories against the Highlanders and Hurricanes.
The move opens the door for Mo'unga - who is in arguably the form of his life – to further dictate Saturday's contest against the Waratahs with Dallas McLeod partnering Braydon Ennor to form a more running-focused combination in the midfield.
The chance follows a blistering personal showing against the Reds, where Mo'unga bagged a hat-trick of tries and kicked eight from eight attempts at goal.
"We're planning with Richie already being over here on tour, it's a great opportunity for him to keep playing. In the next week or two we're going to have to manage Richie's minutes, so just work out this week, take the load off of Dave's shoulders and Richie was more than happy to stay. It just keeps that continuity and keeps driving the team.
"He needs a week off every four games. [We] took him off earlier in this block and he'll need a game off in the next week or two."
Five changes have been made to the starting Crusaders side, with another notable omission coming in the form of veteran lock Sam Whitelock, who moves to the bench after starting the last four games.
31-year-old hooker Nathan Vella has been named in the 16 jumper in place of incumbent Brodie McAlister. Vella's played for the Hurricanes, Highlanders and Sunwolves at Super Rugby level, and has 33 caps for Canterbury in the NPC.
"Just with the management and the load, with Scott Barrett coming in a bit late and also having Tom Sanders not available because of his concussion, and with a couple of other little injuries we've had it means Sam stays on and goes on the pine," Robertson explained.
"It's all managed as well. Sam's played lots of different roles and one of them has been off the bench."
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Dallas McLeod, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili Talitui, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, George Bower.
Reserves: Nathan Vella, Tamaiti Williams, Oliver Jager, Sam Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Bryn Hall, Fergus Burke, Manasa Mataele.