Whitelock returns for Super Rugby Pacific final

Sam Whitelock will provide the Crusaders with a massive boost. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Whitelock will provide the Crusaders with a massive boost. Photo: Getty Images
The Crusaders have received a big boost as they prepare for a massive Super Rugby Pacific final against the Blues in front of a full house at Eden Park on Saturday.

Sam Whitelock makes his return to the starting line-up after a thumb injury forced him out of the semi-final clash against the Chiefs last weekend.

Whitelock is the only change to coach Scott Robertson's starting line-up. But Quinten Strange has earned a spot on the bench ahead of young lock, Zach Gallagher.

With confirmation from the SANZAAR Judicial Committee that blindside flanker Pablo Matera has been cleared to play in the final, Robertson hasn't been forced to make any further changes to his forward pack, and the backline is consistent following last week's impressive semi-final performance.

"As far as finals go, it doesn't get any more exciting than taking on the Blues at a packed-out Eden Park," Robertson said.

"I'm proud of this group and the care they've shown this week to put themselves in a position to go and put a great performance on the field on Saturday night.

"We had a few sore bodies following the huge defensive effort last week, but everyone has come through the week really well and excitement is building towards Saturday night.

"We play for these games and the opportunity to represent the Crusaders region on the big stage - we know it's going to be another step up but we're really embracing the challenge in front of us."

Saturday's fixture will be the third final between the Blues and Crusaders in Super Rugby history. The Crusaders won their inaugural final in 1998, while the Blues won in 2003.

Kick of is at 7.05pm on Saturday.

Crusaders team to play the Blues:

1. George Bower
2. Codie Taylor (VC)
3. Oli Jager
4. Scott Barrett (C)
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Pablo Matera
7. Tom Christie
8. Cullen Grace
9. Bryn Hall
10. Richie Mo'unga
11. Leicester Fainga'anuku
12. David Havili (VC)
13. Jack Goodhue
14. Sevu Reece
15. Will Jordan

RESERVES:

16. Brodie McAlister
17. Tamaiti Williams
18. Fletcher Newell
19. Quinten Strange
20. Corey Kellow
21. Mitch Drummond
22. Braydon Ennor
23. George Bridge

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