After a Covid-disrupted 2022, the Fijian Drua are celebrating a full season of home games this year, welcoming teams from across the pacific to take on the pride of Fiji.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders are coming off a dominant Super Round performance against the Highlanders in Melbourne. The pieces are in place for a huge encounter at Churchill Park in Lautoka.
Captain Scott Barrett will bring up 100 games for the Crusaders in the Fiji heat. The veteran debuted in 2014 in an exhibition match against England, and now nine years later he leads the team out as captain.
Willi Heinz gets his first start back in the jersey after a sojourn overseas. David Havili returns to the mid field after a huge game last weekend. Chay Fihaki will take up fullback responsibilities.
Three potential debutants occupy seats on the bench. Ioane Moananu and Kershawl Sykes-Martin have their opportunity to join the front row, while Taha Kemara looks to slot into first-five.
Scott Hansen, Crusaders Assistant Coach, said the team were excited about “an awesome opportunity to play the Fijian Drua here at home”. The team travelled north to the island on Wednesday afternoon.
“Some boys will be making their debut, and others will be playing their first game for the Crusaders for awhile. We’re excited for all those boys and their families,” Hansen said. “In some ways, the future has arrived hasn’t it, it’s here now, so we’re very excited to see those boys out there.
While the one-hour time difference is unlikely to impact preparation, temperature and humidity the being taken into account. Hansen said a number of the boys had played in Fiji before, and “there’s been a lot of experience shared”.
“[The Fijian Drua] have a real skill set, they’ve got a true belief in open running rugby, and they’ll make some decisions from areas of the field that possibly other teams wouldn’t around their attack,” he said.
The Crusaders take on the Fijian Drua at 3.35pm FJT (4.35pm NZT) on Saturday 11 March from Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji.
1. George Bower
2. Quentin MacDonald
3. Tamaiti Williams
4. Scott Barrett (100th Game)
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Sione Havili Talitui
7. Tom Christie
8. Christian Lio-Willie
9. Willi Heinz
10. Fergus Burke
11. Macca Springer
12. David Havili
13. Braydon Ennor
14. Sevu Reece
15. Chay Fihaki
16. Ioane Moananu (Debut)
17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin (Debut)
18. Seb Calder
19. Zach Gallagher
20. Corey Kellow
21. Noah Hotham
22. Taha Kemara (Debut)
23. Dallas McLeod