The Waikato Chiefs meet the Canterbury Crusaders today knowing one of them will go to the top of the Super 14 table, at least for 24 hours. The teams go into the game in Hamilton with 3-1 records, but the pair have had very different build-ups to the match. Waikato will attempt to recover momentum after last week's shock 23-18 home loss to Queensland, and on the back of a troubled week.
The Chiefs' former captain and former-All Blacks back-rower Sione Lauaki, who was due to return from a two-week ban, is once again on the sidelines after an incident in a bar which resulted in him being charged with assault. Until the matter is resolved, the Chiefs' coach, Ian Foster, will not play him. "We're looking forward to our first New Zealand derby game, as they are always intense and competitive," Foster said.
Kahn Fotuali'i will start at scrum-half for the Crusaders, who are coming off a convincing win over the Otago Highlanders, in place of Andy Ellis, while the All Black lock Isaac Ross returns from an ankle injury. The Crusaders' coach, Todd Blackadder, said he was aware of the threat from Waikato's backline. "The first three times they threw the ball wide against the [Queensland] Reds they scored tries, and that's just gold," he said.
The Pretoria Bulls, the defending champions and current leaders, host a weakened Otago tomorrow. The Highlanders will be without All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson and Michael Hobbs after the pair were suspended by the team for breaking curfew in South Africa. "Each week you have to earn the right to play for this team." said the Otago coach, Glenn Moore. @Email:email@example.com Chiefs v Crusaders, 10.35pm, ShowSports 3 Waratahs v Lions, 12.40pm, ShowSports 3