Crusaders scrum to come under microscope against Waratahs

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With news that All Blacks loosehead prop Joe Moody has had surgery on a damaged tendon in his ankle and will be out for two months, the Crusaders have named Tasman-based Kershawl Sykes-Martin to take his place for his sixth Super Rugby game.

Former Chiefs prop Reuben O'Neill has been named to make his Crusaders debut from the bench.

The Taranaki NPC player has made 15 appearances for the Chiefs in Super Rugby and had a stint as injury cover for the Crusaders during the 2018 pre-season.

But with Tamaiti Williams on the tighthead side of the front row and Codie Taylor starting at hooker, the less-experienced Sykes-Martin and O'Neill won't lack for support.

Mitch Drummond will start at halfback again, with Noah Hotham off the bench. 

While the Waratahs upset the Crusaders 24-21 last year in Sydney, they know that playing in Christchurch is different. They have only won once since Super Rugby began in 1996, in 2004.

Waratahs assistant coach Jason Gilmore told that the team had dug deep in recent weeks and were up for the challenge of playing the defending champions on their home turf.

They would also be approaching the Crusaders with some confidence because of their momentum in recent weeks and also after their upset win last year in Sydney.

"It's a big challenge, but a good one. We'll take a lot of confidence out of last year. People probably doubted us a bit going into that game last year, and we got a good result.

"We know it's going to be a tough game. The Crusaders at home is probably the hardest game you can get in Super Rugby, behind Fiji.

"We've got good momentum, and we're feeling good…you've got to be positive with the ball. I don't think you can hand it back to them without having a plan.

"You've got to beat them to the punch in attack and defensively, you've just got to be so sharp, and not just in and around your toughness in contact but your awareness around the quick throw and changing the point of attack."

Crusaders v Waratahs: Saturday 27 May, 4.35pm, Orangetheory Stadium. TICKETS.


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