Hurricanes coach John Plumtree has insisted Beauden Barrett was never going to play the Crusaders.
All Blacks and Hurricanes No10 Barrett had suggested he might make himself available for the crunch derby match at Christchurch Stadium despite only returning from his honeymoon on Monday. Instead, Fletcher Smith remains at No10, with Barrett not included in the squad of 23.
The comments by the 27-year-old were probably designed to highlight his enthusiasm to get his season underway in a World Cup year but they may not have done All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's blood pressure much good.
Whether it was a smokescreen to attempt to unsettle their southern rivals or not, it created a stir, but Plumtree told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave that an early return from his and the nation's key playmaker was never seriously considered.
"It goes back to where the player is at physically and mentally and when he thinks he's ready," Plumtree said.
"It was never my intention to play him this week but Monday is a new day and we'll talk about it and see where we get to."
Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar said: "It doesn't change a lot because we prepared on the basis that he wasn't going to be playing. In terms of our plan, that's to show on Saturday, but I don't think it changes too much around wanting to have possession, position, and pace and making the most of every opportunity."
Plumtree does, however, welcome back hooker Dane Coles to a place in his starting line-up for the first time since 2017. Coles has had a horror time of it with injury over the past year so for the Hurricanes skipper to be finally available to lead his side from the start will be a huge boost.
Coles, with his concussions, knee and calf problems behind him, played a big role off the bench as the Hurricanes clung on against the Waratahs in Sydney.
"To be honest it felt really good to be back playing for this side again and I just want to rip into it," Coles said.
Hurricanes' All Blacks TJ Perenara and Ngani Laumape move to the bench as Plumtree continues to manage the minutes of his leading players but it's full steam ahead at the Crusaders, who welcome back centre Jack Goodhue after a slight groin problem sidelined him against the Blues.
It means Braydon Ennor, so good at Eden Park, moves to the bench as the Crusaders seek to a 17th consecutive victory. Should they do so it will break their record set in 2005/6.
"It hasn't been a focal point at all," assistant coach Brad Mooar said. "It's lovely to have an opportunity to do that… but you only keep a run if you focus on the next game."
One way to go about that will be to try to limit the number of tackles they have to make against the Hurricanes after a lopsided count against the Blues. Mooar said his side attempted 222 tackles at Eden Park compared with the Blues' 80.
It left his big forwards in the red zone early in the match and it was only pure grit – and Harry Plummer's missed penalty with two minutes remaining – which got them home.
Head coach Scott Robertson told the Herald: "The Blues held the ball and created some great structure and put us under a lot of pressure. When you keep tackling you get pretty tired so we have to make sure we're smart and don't give them the ball. It was a titanic defensive effort and that's what got us home – along with some great set piece moments."
Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea has been sidelined by a slight knee issue.
Crusaders team to play the Hurricanes at Christchurch Stadium on Saturday kick-off 7.35pm: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Matt Todd ©, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody.
Reserves: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Alan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du'Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Liam Mitchell, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Chris Eves.
Reserves: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Ben May, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Ngani Laumape.