Crusaders reinforced by All Blacks for Christchurch 'final'
WELLINGTON - The Crusaders have welcomed back All Blacks Joe Moody and Braydon Ennor for Sunday's Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch, where victory will secure them the inaugural title.
Loosehead prop Moody missed a match because of a family bereavement and Ennor is back at outside centre having recovered from a foot injury for a contest that coach Scott Robertson has likened to a final for the 10-times Super Rugby champions.
"We've played a lot of finals," Robertson told local media on Friday.
"We understand what's required, the intensity that's needed. After getting beaten at home a couple of weeks ago, it's fresh in our mind and we clearly understand that this is a final for us."
The loss to the Wellington Hurricanes a fortnight ago ended a four-year unbeaten run in Super Rugby at Christchurch Stadium but the Crusaders will still be strong favourites to win the title with one round to spare on Sunday.
Whetukamokamo Douglas also returns at the back of the scrum with Quinten Strange coming into the second row in place of Luke Romano. In a backline change, Bryn Hall has earned the start at scrumhalf with Mitch Drummond backing up from the bench.
The Highlanders have named a far more settled side as they seek a first win in Christchurch since April 2015 to send the title race to a final-round showdown between the Crusaders and Auckland Blues next weekend.
Jona Nareki comes in on the left wing for Scott Gregory as the 2015 Super Rugby champions look to bounce back from a 32-21 loss to the Blues last time out and secure south island bragging rights. "Playing the Crusaders, we know we will have to be tuned in from the very start," said coach Aaron Mauger. "It's another great opportunity for our guys to prove themselves against the competition leaders."