Two Crusaders debutants have been named on the bench for the opening game of the 2021 Sky Super Rugby season this Friday night. Canterbury tighthead prop, Fletcher Newell, and outside back, Chay Fihaki, have both been named in the Crusaders team to face the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, in a match that could see them become Crusader #246 and #247 respectively.
Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson has named a strong starting side for round one, balancing a wealth of experience in the tight five, with a promising loose forward trio and an exciting young backline. Leicester Fainga'anuku has an opportunity on the left wing, in the absence of George Bridge (chest injury), while 21-year-old Dallas McLeod will combine with Jack Goodhue in the midfield, in place of Braydon Ennor (knee injury.) Vice-Captain David Havili will sit out round one of the competition as he goes through concussion protocols following a head knock during the game of three halves, with Will Jordan to start at fullback.
Robertson said the team is looking forward to getting to work on Friday night: "We've been building consistently as a group over the last few weeks, and it's really exciting to see it come together as we name our first team of the 2021 season.
"In particular, it's a special week for Fletcher and Chay, who have impressed over the pre-season and have worked extremely hard for this opportunity.
"It's a great occasion playing under the roof, and it's always a tough game between these two sides, that comes down to a few moments. We know one another well and both teams want to get our season off to the best possible start," Robertson said.
Kick off in the Crusaders game against the Highlanders is 7:05pm, Friday 26 February, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The match will be televised live on Sky Sport.