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Super Rugby Preview: Round 12

Super Rugby Preview: Round 12

Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we preview the 12th round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.

Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we preview the 12th round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.

The Crusaders are without Richie McCaw on Friday but the Hurricanes will not be underestimating the seven-time Super Rugby champions – according to lock James Broadhurst.

Loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett will make his 150th appearance for the Crusaders on Saturday but McCaw is the name on everybody’s lips.

The All Blacks captain has been ruled out with concussion, the latest setback for a Crusaders side that has endured an indifferent start to the Super Rugby season – collecting five wins from ten outings.

Matt Todd replaces McCaw at openside, while Andy Ellis replaces Mitchell Drummond at half-back in the only other change to the starting XV, with Israel Dagg still unavailable for selection.

The Canes – top of the pile after just one defeat in their nine outings – welcome New Zealand hooker Dane Coles back onto the bench, while Corey Jane shakes of a calf injury to replace Nehe Milner-Skudder on the wing.

And Broadhurst is urging his side not to get complacent against a Crusaders side that narrowly missed out on last season’s Super Rugby trophy.

“I don't think it will make a major difference,” he said of McCaw’s absence. “With [Matt] Todd in there they've still got one of the benchmark loose forward trios in the country at the moment the way Reado [Kieran Read] and [Jordan] Taufua have been playing anyway.

“There is still no doubt they are the benchmark. Their record speaks for itself. They haven't missed the playoffs for how many number of years and we've struggled to get there.

“They are stacked with All Blacks and the non-All Blacks are sharp as well. We're under no illusions what we are up against this week.”

Elsewhere, all Blacks trio Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Aaron Smith return to the Highlanders’ starting XV as they welcome the Sharks on Friday.

They also make four changes in the pack from the side that was beaten by the Brumbies last time out, with Josh Hohneck, Gareth Evans, Dan Pryor and Mark Reddish each handed a starting jersey.

Blues captain Jerome Kaino is back in for their clash with Western Force – a bottom-of-the-table clash with both sides each boasting just one win so far this Super Rugby season.

Charles Piutau is also back into the XV as Sir John Kirwan’s side return to Eden Park for just the second time this season.

And the Chiefs visit Melbourne Rebels seeking to leapfrog the league-leading Hurricanes, just one point back but with an extra game under their belt.

They will be without IRB World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick, who is nursing a shoulder injury, but skipper Liam Messam returns on the blindside, while Andrew Horrell takes the No.10 shirt.

Elsewhere there is an all-Australian clash on Friday when the Brumbies host the Waratahs, while the Stormers visit the Cheetahs and the Bulls take on the Lions on Saturday.

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