The starting forward pack have an average 65 Chiefs caps each while the backs average 72 caps in the side to run out against the Super Rugby Champions in Christchurch on Friday.
The Gallagher Chiefs are looking forward to the venture south following their acclaimed victory at Orangetheory Stadium last season, with five of their 10 wins in Super Rugby coming away from home.
“First of all, our hearts and thoughts are with all families who have lost loved ones in the cyclone and have suffered such devastation. It puts a game of sport into perspective for us all,” said Gallagher Chiefs coach, Clayton McMillan.
“With their record, the Crusaders deserve nothing but respect, but we believe in our ability and capacity to perform at their home fortress.
“It has been a relatively short build-up but we are raring to go. The team have worked extremely hard and we have managed to come through the pre-season relatively injury-free, barring a few frustrating niggles.
“In a World Cup year there is a lot at stake for individual players, but right now our focus is 100 per cent on being at our collective best week-in and week-out, and if we do that, winning a Super Rugby title is a realistic goal for us.”
The team for Friday’s game boasts nine All Blacks, mostly in the pack, where they are led by All Blacks captain Sam Cane, the indomitable Brodie Retallick and their omnipresent hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho.
There will be interest in tighthead John Ryan, who has played nearly 200 games for Munster and 24 caps for Ireland. He arrived this week for the season as a replacement for All Black Angus Ta’avao who is recovering from neck surgery, and the Irishman has been immediately pressed into action on the bench.
Luke Jacobson will start at No.8 for his 50th game for the Gallagher Chiefs.
Co-Captain and Gallagher Chiefs centurion Brad Weber will guide the backline with the outstanding Damian McKenzie preferred at first-five inside fellow international Anton Lienert-Brown, who will move to within one game of becoming the latest Gallagher Chief to reach 100 games for the club.
There’s an exciting look to the outside backs, led by the skilful Shaun Stevenson at fullback.
The team is (Chiefs caps in brackets):
1. Aidan Ross (61)
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (63)
3. George Dyer (8)
4. Brodie Retallick (115)
5. Tupou Vaa’i (31)
6. Pita Gus Sowakula (53)
7. Sam Cane (Co-Captain, 137)
8. Luke Jacobson (49)
9. Brad Weber (Co-Captain, 110)
10. Damian McKenzie (95)
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo (29)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (98)
13. Alex Nankivell (58)
14. Solomon Alaimalo (48)
15. Shaun Stevenson (67)
16. Bradley Slater (39)
17. Ollie Norris (28)
18. John Ryan (Debut)
19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi (34)
20. Samipeni Finau (18)
21. Cortez Ratima (9)
22. Josh Ioane (9)
23. Rameka Poihipi (14)
Gallagher Chiefs vs Crusaders
Friday 24 February
Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Live: Sky TV