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Losing access to their six All Blacks after a disappointing 23-22 to Taranaki last weekend also influenced co-coaches Reuben Thorne and Mark Brown, who have made 10 changes to their starting side to face Hawke’s Bay in Napier on Saturday.
Whetukamokamo Douglas leads the side from the back of the scrum after he was reduced to running messages on to Orangetheory Stadium last Saturday.
And although he wasn’t playing, relinquishing the Log ‘o Wood still stung, given he had to hand it over as captain of Waikato - to Canterbury counterpart Luke Whitelock - in 2016.
“It hurts whenever you lose it,” Douglas said, vowing Canterbury would atone at McLean Park by making a stronger start after they trailed Taranaki 20-3 at halftime last week.
Sanders starts on the blindside flank for regular skipper Reed Prinsep, his first game time since he picked up a slight niggle after impressing at No 8 in the North v South match on September 5.
"He’s taken it on himself to lead us with our mindset, especially around the physical, and hopefully like the North-South game he puts on a bit of a show,” Douglas said.
"It’s not ‘rotation’, that’s an ugly word from the past - it’s more a case of we have a squad and we’ve got to trust the whole squad,” said Brown.
"We’re looking to spread the time and minutes evenly.
"This competition is short in duration but these games are tough, every team has got really strong Super (rugby) representation.”
Sam Whitelock’s departure allows promising lock Sam Darry to make his Mitre 10 Cup debut, while Mitchell Dunshea makes his first start of the year in the second row for veteran Luke Romano.
Prop Daniel Lienert-Brown and hooker Shilo Klein start for Joe Moody and Codie Taylor.
In the backline, Brett Cameron replaces Richie Mo’unga while Fergus Burke returns from injury to cover the playmaking role off the bench.
Originally from Gisborne, Burke’s parents will make the trip from the East Coast to watch the 21-year-old log rare game time given Richie Mo’unga and Brett Cameron are ahead of him in the pecking order.
"It’s tough to be in the 23 in Canterbury but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, it’s a great place to develop my game.”
Burke made his Crusaders debut against the Sunwolves in Brisbane in March, but then understandably ceded control to Mo’unga and to a lesser extent Cameron in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
A shoulder injury during club rugby also held him back, although he played 20 minutes against Tasman in the final preseason hit out on September 4.
"Since (the Sunwolves) we’ve had the best first-five in the world playing unbelievable and Bretty (Cameron) has been going well as well,” said Burke, who still relished learning alongside Mo’unga.
"His message is always ‘Be yourself, you’re a different 10 to what I am’. I’m Fergus Burke, he’s Richie Mo’unga, he didn’t try to be DC (Dan Carter)."
Meanwhile, the unbeaten Canterbury Farah Palmer Cup holders take a settled squad to Napier for their third game following their 85-10 hammering of Otago last Saturday.
Georgia Ponsonby will run on at hooker, while Grace Steinmetz has her first start on the left wing, so Rebecca Todd and Sam Taylor add impact off the bench.
Greer O’Rourke has recovered from a calf strain to return to the openside flank, with Lucy Jenkins dropping to the reserves.
Cassie Siataga also returns to the 23 as first five-eighth and midfield cover after missing last weekend’s romp due to a family bereavement.
“We’ve been able to give the majority of our squad a taste of FPC rugby within the first three weeks of the competition, which now brings on some great selection headaches for the coaches,” said head coach Blair Baxter.
The women’s game kicks off at 4.35pm and the men follow at 7.05pm.
Canterbury: Andrew Knewstubb, Josh McKay, Ngane Punivai, Rameka Poihipi, Manasa Mataele, Brett Cameron, Mitchell Drummond, Whetukamokamo Douglas (Capt), Billy Harmon, Tom Sanders, Mitcxhell Dunshea, Sam Darry, Oli Jager, Shilo Klein, Daniel Lienert Brown. Reserves: Scott Mellow, Finlay Brewis, Fletcher Newell, Reed Prinsep, Tom Christie, Ere Enari, Fergus Burke, Isaiah Punivai.
Canterbury women: Izzy Waterman, Martha Lolohea, Grace Brooker, Liz McGoverne, Terauoriwa Gapper, Kendra Cocksedge, Lucy Anderson, Greer O’Rourke, Alana Bremner (capt), Cindy Nelles, Chelsea Bremner, Amy Rule, Georgia Ponsonby, Pip Love. Reserves: Rebecca Todd, Trina Greenslade, Angie Sisifia, Lucy Jenkins, Sophie O’Cain, Cassie Siataga, Sam Curtis.