Crusaders in wait and see on Ellis fitness

Seasoned campaigner Andy Ellis has been named as the Crusaders’ starting halfback for their Super Rugby quarter-final against the Lions but will need to get through training to confirm his spot.

Ellis, 32, missed the defeat to the Hurricanes last weekend after picking up a calf strain in the warm-up.

As well as back-up Mitchell Drummond, the Crusaders have taken a third halfback, Leon Fukofuka, to South Africa as a precaution.

Coach Todd Blackadder says the signs are encouraging that Ellis will run out in Johannesburg on Sunday morning.

However, Blackadder isn’t prepared to risk the team’s chances by putting the 28-Test All Black on if the player isn’t 100 per cent.

“We’ve got a run this afternoon and we’re going to have to really stretch him out there, so if Andy passes then he’ll be good,” he said.

“If he doesn’t, we’ll make a call early so we have enough time to prepare Mitch and Leon if Andy’s not available.”

In the pack, Sam Whitelock returns after sitting out against the Hurricanes with illness and fellow All Black Luke Romano will be his locking partner.

Romano was originally named on the reserves against the Hurricanes, but ended up replacing Whitlock in the starting side, and Blackadder has opted to retain him over Scott Barrett, who goes to the bench.

Blackadder said the aim was to use used Romano’s physicality and experience to help get the side on the front foot early, while Barrett would provide impact with his different skill set, including his offloading ability.

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

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