Crusaders favour experienced line-up to take on Drua

Willi Heinz. Photo: James Foy/Getty Images
Willi Heinz. Photo: James Foy/Getty Images
The Crusaders have opted for experience over youth in their starting team to face the Fijian Drua in Lautoka on Saturday, as they look to avoid a 0-3 start to the season for the first time since 1996.

Willi Heinz comes in to start at halfback over youngster Noah Hotham who was substituted early in the second half in the 37-24 loss to the Waratahs last Saturday in Melbourne. Hotham misses out entirely this week.

The only other change to the run-on team sees Fijian winger Manasa Mataele start on home soil, replacing Macca Springer in the No 11 jersey.

The remainder of the starting 15 is the same, with first-five Taha Kemara retaining the No 10 jersey in the absence of Fergus Burke and Rivez Reihana after a nervy first start last week.

The bench has seen a big re-shuffle. Only lock Jamie Hannah and halfback Mitchell Drummond keep their places from the trip to Melbourne.

Lock Tahlor Cahill, first-five Riley Hohepa and midfielder Jone Rova – another born in Fiji – are all in line to make their Crusaders debuts if they get off the bench.

The red-and-blacks lost the corresponding fixture last year, 25-24, to the Drua in what would become a familiar sight – the Fijians tipping over visiting teams in the heat and humidity.

LINE-UP: Chay Fihaki, Sevu Reece, Levi Aumua, David Havili, Manasa Mataele, Taha Kemara, Willi Heinz, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Dominic Gardiner, Quentin Strange, Scott Barrett, Fletcher Newell, George Bell, George Bower. 
Bench: Ioane Moananu, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, Seb Calder, Jamie Hannah, Tahlor Cahill, Mitchell Drummond, Jone Rova, Riley Hohepa.
  • Kick-off in Lautoka is at 2.05pm on Saturday