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Fotuali'i enjoys streak of luck

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Sportal.co.nz     16 Apr 2010     Getty Images

The 27-year-old Tasman halfback expected to spend most of the campaign riding the pine and being used as an impact player, but the head knocks suffered by Ellis has given him the chance to start consistently and he will make his fourth run-on appearance for the Crusaders against the Cheetahs in their tenth round clash in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Despite playing the team second last in the competition, the second-placed Crusaders will be almost at full strength, the Crusaders coaching staff conceding that they had learnt lessons from last year when they made wholesale changes for the Cheetahs game and paid the penalty with a 20-13 loss in Bloemfontein.

Left wing Zac Guildford, who has started every game for the Crusaders, is on the bench and replaced by Jared Payne while Tim Bateman, not wanted since the second round loss to the Reds, is at centre for Robbie Fruean, who has had a family bereavement.

An injury to All Blacks No. 8 Kieran Read has meant a recall for Thomas Waldrom with captain Richie McCaw having his first start in the No. 7 jersey this season. George Whitelock, who has been the openside flanker in the last eight matches, moves to the blindside flank.

In other changes to the pack, elder brother Ben Franks replaces sibling Owen at prop and rookie lock Sam Whitelock replaces veteran Brad Thorn as Chris Jack's second-row partner. Utility back Daniel Bowden is included in the 22-man team for the first time this season, but there is still no room for All Blacks lock Isaac Ross.

All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter has been named in the team, but is carrying a slight groin injury and has not trained this week. A final decision will be made at the captain's run on Friday, coach Todd Blackadder saying Carter had to be 100 per cent or he would be replaced by Bowden with Tu Umaga-Marshall coming into the reserves.

Fotuali'i has thrived getting frequent starts and his running and work-rate have both improved as his confidence has grown, but he remembers having a rare start in the same match last year and suffering a loss.

"They came out firing last year and played well. It's going to be another physical game as all the South African teams are pretty big boys,' he said at training on Thursday.

"I like the physicality of it all and mixing it with the big guys - I enjoy that but all the hard work is done first by the forwards up front and if get the opportunity to have a dart around the rucks then I try and take it.'

Fotuali'i said the Crusaders were not going to play with gay abandon even against a team leaking points constantly.

"Our focus still will be on retaining the ball, creating more phases and building continuity. But we want to score tries and get the bonus point before we set off on our overseas trip.'

While the Crusaders were upset by the Cheetahs last year, the South African visitors have had a wretched time in Christchurch with the Crusaders having posted more than 50 points in three of their last four outings.