Super Rugby Pacific: Scott Barrett backs new Crusaders locking partner to fill Sam Whitelock's void

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett is backing new locking partner Mitchell Dunshea to fill the void of Sam Whitelock in their Super Rugby Pacific opener against the Chiefs.

Whitelock has been ruled out of the Friday clash with a concussion, forcing coach Scott Robertson to dig into his locking starts before even round one.

Instead, Dunshea will step into the large boots of Whitelock, as an experienced, yet unseasoned veteran, having played just 23 Super Rugby games since making his debut in 2017.

The 27-year-old has had to watch Barrett and Whitelock's partnership from the sidelines, with promising Tasman lock Quinton Strange often preferred from the bench.

But Friday night will provide a rare opportunity for the once All Blacks call-up to showcase his skills, as the defending champions kickstart their campaign.

Barrett believes Dunshea will make for a seamless transition into the second row, and go about business the only way he knows how to.

"Sam will be gutted he's not playing round one, but we got Mitch, and he's stepping in there to start, he will fill his shoes and do his thing," he said.

"Mitch is Mitch, he just comes in and goes about his work. He's a quiet operator, he's hard, he's a hard worker, and he will get stuck in on Friday night."

The Crusaders' showdown with the Chiefs at Christchurch's Orangetheory Stadium will be a rematch of last year's semi-final.

Barrett is expecting another typically tough Chiefs outfit to front up, as players look to put their hands up for All Blacks' World Cup selection.

"It's in their culture, they're a team that don't lie down, and they've got that underlying confidence in them that they can turn up and beat any team," he said.

"You have to respect the way they play, plenty of niggle, plenty of skill, and flair and they're going to challenge you for 80 minutes.

"Everyone wants to put their best foot forward and that starts by playing well for your Super franchise, people are going to be gunning for that."

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