Official team lists and injury news for this week's round of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Chiefs v Hurricanes
7:05pm Friday, April 23
FMG Stadium, Hamilton
The Chiefs will be without the services of Luke Jacobson for Friday night's Super Rugby Aotearoa encounter against the Hurricanes, ruled out with concussion.
Jacobson, 24, has had his short career plagued by concussion woes, including missing the All Blacks' 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign as a result of persistent head-knocks.
His place is taken by Pita Gus Sowakula, who moves from the bench into No.8, while Samipeni Finau comes into the reserves.
Elsewhere, Damian McKenzie shifts from first-five back to fullback, having started in the No.10 jersey against the Crusaders, a game which the Chiefs won 26-25.
Bryn Gatland returns to take the reins as first-five, shifting Chase Tiatia to the bench.
Māori All Blacks midfielder Rameka Poihipi is the only new face in the matchday squad, and will look to make his Chiefs debut off the bench in the No.22 jersey.
Chiefs: 1-Aidan Ross, 2-Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3-Angus Ta'avao, 4-Tupou Vaa'i, 5-Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 6-Mitchell Brown, 7-Lachlan Boshier, 8-Pita Gus Sowakula, 9-Brad Weber (c), 10-Bryn Gatland, 11-Etene Nanai-Seturo, 12-Alex Nankivell, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 14-Jonah Lowe, 15-Damian McKenzie.
Reserves: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Ollie Norris, 18-Sione Mafileo, 19-Samipeni Finau, 20-Kaylum Boshier, 21-Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22-Rameka Poihipi, 23-Chase Tiatia.
Fresh off extending his NZ Rugby contract, hooker Dane Coles will captain the Hurricanes against the Chiefs.
Coles has signed with his franchise and NZ Rugby for a further two years, citing a passion for both jerseys as the reason for fending off retirement and overseas offers.
The 34-year-old leads the side in place of injured Ardie Savea, with the dynamic loose forward ruled out for two months with a knee injury.
Coles captained the Hurricanes to their first-ever Super Rugby title in 2016 and the veteran forward says it’s a "no brainer” to step up and lead the side for Friday's match in Hamilton.
"I'm one of the leaders in our group and it would not be right to ask someone else to do a job I’m really proud to do," Coles says.
"While we haven’t got the results we wanted so far this season, I can see the attitude is still right among the boys, and we are really looking forward to getting up to Hamilton and putting together a really good performance."
The Hurricanes are out of the Grand Final race, but can severely dent the Chiefs’ hopes with victory.
Hurricanes: 1-Xavier Numia, 2-Dane Coles, 3-Tyrell Lomax, 4-James Blackwell, 5-Scott Scrafton, 6-Reed Prinsep, 7-Du’Plessis Kirifi, 8-Devan Flanders, 9-Luke Campbell, 10-Ruben Love, 11-Salesi Rayasi, 12-Ngani Laumape, 13-Peter Umaga-Jensen, 14-Wes Goosen, 15-Jordie Barrett
Reserves: 16-Asafo Aumua, 17-Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18-Alex Fidow, 19-Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20-Vaea Fifita, 21-Brayden Iose, 22-Cam Roigard, 23-Billy Proctor
Crusaders v Blues
4:05pm Sunday, April 24
Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Try-scoring machine Codie Taylor returns to the Crusaders starting line-up in one of a few changes to the defending champions' forward pack, as they look to bounce back from their loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock reclaims his starting spot after a week of rest, with Scott Barrett, who played flanker last weekend, joining him in the second row.
Cullen Grace returns from his week off to start at No.8, moving Ethan Blackadder to the side of the scrum.
The backline remains unchanged, while prop Tamaiti Williams takes a spot on the bench for a potential Super Rugby debut.
Head coach Scott Robertson says their priority this weekend is to rediscover their rhythm, as they look to clinch a home final.
"The effort is there for us, it's around how we manage our game," says Robertson. "These are tight matches, but we have to be dominant in certain areas too and take opportunities when we're given them.
"We've stripped a couple of things back to make sure we're really clear and ready to go."
Crusaders: 1-George Bower, 2-Codie Taylor, 3-Michael Alaalatoa, 4-Mitchell Dunshea, 5-Quinten Strange, 6-Scott Barrett (c), 7-Tom Sanders, 8-Ethan Blackadder, 9-Mitchell Drummond, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 11-George Bridge, 12-David Havili, 13-Leicester Fainga'anuku, 14-Sevu Reece, 15-Will Jordan
Reserves: 16-Brodie McAlister 17-Tamaiti Williams, 18-Oli Jager, 19-Mitchell Dunshea, 20-Tom Sanders, 21-Bryn Hall, 22-Dallas McLeod, 23-Manasa Mataele
After two narrow losses in the last three games, the Blues face a near must-win game against the Crusaders.
All Blacks Karl Tu’inukuafe and Nepo Laulala start in the front row, with Kurt Eklund returning from suspension at hooker with plenty to prove.
Experienced Gerard Cowley-Tuioti and Christchurch product Sam Darry are paired again in the middle row, with skipper Patrick Tuiopultu will nursing an injury, while skilful Blake Gibson joins All Blacks Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu in an exciting loose forward trio.
With stand-in skipper Tom Robinson unavailable through injury, the captaincy will be shared by Papalii and Rieko Ioane at 23 years and 24 respectively.
Blues: 1-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2-Kurt Eklund, 3-Nepo Laulala, 4-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4-Sam Darry, 6-Blake Gibson, 7-Daltan Papalii (c), 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 9-Jonathan Ruru, 10-Harry Plummer, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-Tanielu Tele'a, 13-Rieko Ioane (c), 14-Mark Telea, 15-Stephen Perofeta
Reserves: 16-Soane Vikena, 17-Marcel Renata, 18-Ofa Tuungafasi, 19-Taine Plumtree, 20-Akira Ioane, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Otere Black, 23-AJ Lam
Join us at 7pm Friday for live updates of the Chiefs v Hurricanes