WELLINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) - The Canterbury Crusaders underlined the depth of their squad on Thursday by benching one of the form players of Super Rugby Aotearoa for Saturday’s crunch clash against the Auckland Blues.
Outside back Will Jordan scored two tries in each of the Crusaders’ last two matches to help the 10-times Super Rugby champions to a two-point lead over the Blues at the top of the standings ahead of the match in Christchurch.
However, coach Scott Robertson included the 22-year-old in his replacements when he named his side on Thursday, recalling vice captain David Havili at fullback alongside wingers George Bridge and Sevu Reece.
“It’s obviously a hard decision,” Robertson told local media.
“But when you’ve got two All Black wings and your vice captain, who was probably player of Super Rugby before COVID-19 and he got sick ... “
The Blues have enjoyed a resurgence under coach Leon MacDonald this year and head into the contest on the back of three straight wins looking to snap an 11-match losing streak against the Crusaders.
“The Crusaders are the benchmark in New Zealand rugby, so we are under no illusion about the task ahead of us,” MacDonald said.
“(But) if we can implement our game plan and execute, then there is no reason why we can’t provide a stern test. And if the weather plays ball, it should be a cracking game.”
MacDonald resisted the temptation to field Crusaders and All Blacks great Dan Carter against his former side and retained Otere Black at flyhalf with Beauden Barrett at fullback.
The 38-year-old flyhalf, who made a surprise return to New Zealand rugby after a gap of five years last month, made a successful return to the club game last weekend but will have to wait at least another week for his Blues debut.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford