With the race for a top four spot in the playoffs heating up, this weekend’s clash between the two New Zealand rivals means even more.
Defending champions the Crusaders, who beat the Blues in a tight tussle earlier in the season, will host the competitions third-ranked side at Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch, on Saturday.
The Crusaders are fourth, and risk falling behind the Hurricanes and into fifth on the ladder if they fail to beat the Blues.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has named an impressive matchday 23 for the round 12 clash, which includes a milestone appearance for winger Leicester Fainga’anuku.
Fainga’anuku, who Robertson, recently compared to All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu, is set to play his 50th match in Crusaders colours. Prop Oliver Jager will also bring up the same achievement should he comes off the bench.
The Crusaders have gone with a star-studded forward pack, which includes the formidable front-row trio of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Tamaiti Williams.
Captain Scott Barrett will pack down in the second row alongside Quinten Strange, the loose forward contingent is nothing short of elite.
All Blacks Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo’unga will look to steer the Crusaders around the park in the halves, as they look to create time and space for their world-class backline.
Fainga’anuku will start on the left wing, while Dallas McLeod and Will Jordan make up the rest of the outside back.
Lining up in the midfield are All Blacks duo David Havili and Braydon Ennor.