Whitelock named skipper for 100th match

Sam Whitelock will captain the Crusaders in his 100th Super Rugby game as Kieran Read is rested against the Melbourne Rebels in Christchurch.

All Blacks and Crusaders skipper Read has Saturday off following a hectic recent schedule, making way at No.8 for Jimmy Tupou in one of four starting changes.

Also missing from the team who lost 23-13 to the Chiefs in Suva last week is All Blacks prop Joe Moody, who has suffered a neck nerve injury that could sideline him for two to three weeks.

Another Test loosehead, Wyatt Crockett, has a calf niggle, meaning he stays on the bench and hands a first start of the season to third-stringer Alex Hodgman.

There are two changes to the backline.

Ryan Crotty is free of a calf injury and replaces Kieron Fonotia at centre, while Johnny McNicholl wins his right-wing berth back from Jone Macilai.

All Blacks lock Whitelock, who made his Crusaders debut in 2010, returns to the captaincy role he filled twice earlier this season.

Coach Todd Blackadder is pleased he can honour one of his team’s best servants.

“Sam’s a good man and he really needs to lead the way for the rest,” he said.

The Crusaders are second in the New Zealand Conference, just a point behind the leading Chiefs with two rounds remaining.

Blackadder admits a bonus point will therefore be in his team’s sights against the mid-table Australians.

“That’s one of the objectives, no doubt about that,” he said.

“We’ve got to go out there and play and give it everything we’ve got.”

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Ryan Crotty, David Havili, Nemani Nadolo, Richie Mo’unga, Andy Ellis, Jimmy Tupou, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (capt), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman. Res: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Mike Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Kieron Fonotia.

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