Super Rugby semi-finals previews
CRUSADERS v CHIEFS in Christchurch, Saturday 5.35pm AEST
THE Crusaders have retained an unchanged line-up for Saturday's Super Rugby home semi-final against the Chiefs.
Coach Scott Robertson hopes the 23 players who beat the Highlanders 17-0 in last weekend's quarter-finals will take the side closer to an eighth Super Rugby title.
Flanker Matt Todd and winger Seta Tamanivalu, who were injured last weekend, have been passed fit to play in the knockout match at Christchurch.
There are seven All Blacks in the forward pack, three more in the backline and two on the bench.
"It's good to name the same 23 with no injuries, and a little bit of rhythm, with all the experienced players in the group that have been here a few times," Robertson said.
"It was the easiest selection meeting we have had."
The Crusaders beat the Chiefs 31-24 in Fiji during the regular season - their first win over the two-time champions since 2014.
They haven't won back-to-back matches over the Chiefs since 2011.
Meanwhile, All Blacks centre Charlie Ngatai has been selected to start for the Chiefs after missing last weekend's quarter-final against the Stormers because of an ankle injury.
Ngatai has played only four matches for the Chiefs this season after returning from a year-long battle with concussion.
His return forces former All Blacks fly half Stephen Donald to the bench.
CRUSADERS: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge
CHIEFS: Damian McKenzie, Tim Nanai-Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-captain), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-captain), Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Mitchell Brown, Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames. Reserves: Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross, Atu Moli, Dominic Bird, Lachlan Boshier, Finlay Christie, Stephen Donald, Shaun Stevenson
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ)
SEMI-FINAL TWO: LIONS v HURRICANES in Johannesburg, Saturday 10.30pm AEST
LIONS coach Johan Ackermann has kept faith with his squad for Saturday's semi-final against the Hurricanes despite scrapping home last week against the Sharks 23-21.
The match is a rematch of last year's final, where the Wellington-based franchise won 20-3 at Westpac Stadium.
One factor against the Lions is that they have not played any New Zealand sides this season.
"They are the defending champions, and have proven in the last few weeks that they are a top side by beating the Crusaders and beating the Brumbies away from home," insisted Ackermann. "So it's obviously a mammoth task to play against them ... they're just a quality team."
The Lions required a last-minute 53-metre penalty from winger Ruan Combrinck to get past the Sharks last weekend.
They will need to rise to a new level against last year's champions, who beat the Lions in Wellington to seal their maiden title.
"If you look at the players' response last week, speaking to them afterwards, I think they realise the game we played on the weekend won't be good enough," Ackermann said.
"So it is up to the team, not only the starting line-up but the bench to make sure that come Saturday they are at their best."
Meanwhile, Hurricanes captain and hooker Dane Coles returns after making his comeback from injury off the bench during last weekend's 35-16 win over the Brumbies in Canberra, which sees Ricky Riccitelli drop to the bench.
The other change is in the backs with the impressive Vince Aso returning to partner Ngani Laumape in the midfield.
Aso's return forces a backline reshuffle with All Black Jordie Barrett moving from outside centre to fullback and Nehe Milner-Skudder to the wing.
LIONS: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Ruan Ackermann, Kwagga Smith, Jaco Kriel (c), Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen. Reserves: Akker vd Merwe, Corne Fourie, Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Faf de Klerk, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza
HURRICANES: Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Mark Abbott, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Dane Coles (c), Ben May. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Reed Prinsep, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Julian Savea
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)