The Crusaders believe selection continuity will be a weapon in the Super Rugby final after unveiling an unchanged side for the second straight week.
The same starting XV and reserve bench which beat the Highlanders 17-0 in the quarter-finals and the Chiefs 27-13 in last week’s semi-final will face the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The only injury concerns had surrounded two key All Blacks forwards who picked up niggles in their Christchurch semi-final.
Prop Owen Franks (achilles tendon) and No.8 Kieran Read (knee) have both been passed fit. They have participated in what has admittedly been a light start to the week’s preparation.
Assistant coach Brad Mooar said fielding an unchanged team throughout the finals distilled a sense of unity for the seven-time champions.
“It’s awesome. The third game in a row and wonderful to get to a final and have everybody fit and available for selection,” he said.
“Continuity is very very important. Being in this position at the back end of the season speaks highly of the way we’ve managed the players.”
Nearly half of the Crusaders 23 are All Blacks, including seven in the starting pack.
Mooar is confident they have the know-how to handle a sold-out crowd of 62,000 at Ellis Park, against a top-qualifying Lions side who roared home in the second half to beat the Hurricanes 44-29 last week.
“Ours is a very, very good 23 with an outstanding bench to be able to impact on the game later on,” Mooar said.
“There’s a heck of (a lot of) experience, with people who have had success here, with the Crusaders and with the All Blacks.
“To be able to call on that sort of experience and to have the All Blacks captain (Read) fit is super for us.”
Mooar says the Crusaders are content with the appointment of South African referee Jaco Peyper to control the final, disagreeing with a number of Kiwi-based commentators who believe the match officials should be neutral.
Peyper has always been impartial and relates well to players during games, Mooar said.
Crusaders: David Havili, Israel Dagg, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (capt), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitch Hunt, George Bridge.