Crusaders game holds huge implications for Lions

The visitors delivered an unconvincing win against the semi-professional Provincial Barbarians in their opening game and on Wednesday lost to the Blues, New Zealand's worst-performing Super Rugby side this season.

The Crusaders always loomed as the toughest opponents of the opening 10 days and Gatland has decided to field what appears to be the strongest Lions side yet in a bid avoid what would be a dispiriting second defeat so early on the tour.

Crusaders hot for Southern derby

Official records note the Crusaders beat the Brumbies in the competition's opening weekend, but the reality is the magnificent charge that has led to them equalling the 2002 champion side's effort of 13 straight victories began in that second round fixture in Dunedin on March 4.

Time might heal some wounds but for those south of the Waitaki River, the memory of the Crusaders screaming back from a 21-point deficit to stun the Highlanders 30-27 at Forsyth Barr Stadium must sting.

Dagg back as Crusaders ring changes

He's been named on the wing for Saturday's clash with the Rebels in Melbourne.

The outside back played a half game of club rugby a fortnight ago and declared himself fit to play for the Crusaders, but he was left out of last weekend's win over the Chiefs in Suva.

Dagg hasn't played Super Rugby since March after injuring his knee against the Reds and now has two games to prove his match fitness before the All Blacks first test of the year against Samoa.

Chiefs hoping to match Crusaders power

The Crusaders continued their momentum last weekend with a clinical 20-12 win over the Hurricanes, extending their unbeaten streak to 11 matches.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie acknowledges his side, who are second in the conference, will have to match the red and blacks' power in the set piece on Friday night.

"That's where they destroyed the Canes and traditionally they have always been strong up front with an All Black-ladened tight five to deal to your scrum," he said.

Crusaders hope to tame Hurricane Barrett

The Crusaders lead the New Zealand conference, and overall standings, on 46 points with the Waikato Chiefs on 42 and the Hurricanes, who have played one less game, on 38.

Despite having won all 10 of their games so far this season, the Crusaders see match-ups against the Hurricanes on Saturday and the Chiefs in Suva on May 19 as the true examination of their title credentials.

"I suppose the next two weeks, the local derbies against the Chiefs and the Hurricanes, is the real test," Crusaders assistant coach Leon MacDonald said.

Crusaders thrash Bulls to maintain unbeaten run

The Crusaders ran in 10 tries as their quick hands and clever kicks carved holes in the Bulls defence in what was a scintillating display of attacking rugby that earned them their first victory in Pretoria since 2008.

The Canterbury-based side are now closing in on their own record of 13 consecutive wins in the tournament set en route to lifting the trophy in 2002.

There were nine try-scorers on the night for the visitors as they led 31-3 at half-time after Goodhue, flank Peter Samu, centre Tim Bateman, lock Scott Barrett and wing Seta Tamanivalu had all scored.

Crusaders stick with tried and true

The forward pack remains from last weekend's win over the Stormers, while Bryn Hall will start at halfback, pushing Mitchell Drummond to the bench.

In the reserves, Andrew Makalio comes on to the bench, to cover Codie Taylor at hooker.

Openside Matt Todd will play his 100th Super Rugby game.

Coach Scott Robertson said he had no doubt that Todd would give his all on Saturday night.

"Matt is an absolute work horse who gives full energy and commitment every time he takes the field - it wouldn't matter if it was his first game or his 100th."


Crusaders back on top after demolishing Stormers

The Crusaders ran in five tries in the opening 40 minutes, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read grabbing two, as they had the game won with a 36-3 lead at the break.

The win leaves the Crusaders atop the New Zealand conference and the overall standings, the only unbeaten team after eight weeks.

The Stormers, coming off a 29-16 loss last week to the Kings, sorely tested the Crusaders' defence early, but could only come away with a Robert du Preez penalty.

Whitelock staying until 2020

Whitelock is the All Blacks' most capped lock with 84 appearances since his debut against Ireland in 2010.

The 28-year-old dual-world-cup winner has established himself as one of New Zealand's premier locks alongside Chiefs big man Brodie Retallick in the black jersey.

Whitelock said staying in New Zealand was an easy decision.

"When I considered whether my immediate playing future was here in New Zealand and Christchurch, I didn't need to look far for the answer.

Crusaders too strong for Sunwolves

New Zealand captain Kieran Read, making his first appearance following wrist surgery last year, Ben Funnell, Pete Samu, George Bridge and Whetu Douglas also crossed for the home side who were celebrating Crockett's 176th appearance.

Crockett, who led the team onto the field, surpassed the previous mark of 175 appearances racked up by former All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu.