Ellis returns for Ellis Park clash

The Crusaders have recalled All Black scrum-half Andrew Ellis to their line-up for the Super 14 clash against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Ellis returns to the starting XV after the late switch last week which saw him start from the bench against the Reds.

Kevin Senio, who started ahead of Ellis against the Reds, returns to a bench that has props Wyatt Crockett and Ben May bracketed, due to a bout of flu that has dogged Crockett since the side arrived in South Africa.

An assessment as to whether Crockett will be fit enough to participate on Saturday will be made later in the week.

The decision by coaches Robbie Deans and Mark Hammett to stick with the same players who secured five competition points against the Reds last week reflects their satisfaction at what was achieved in round two.

The confidence that performance has given the side, and the continuity in selection it has allowed, could also be important ahead of what is shaping as a demanding test against a much improved South African side.

Formerly known as the Cats, the Johannesburg-based Lions – who are the international arm of the Golden Lions Rugby Union – have made an impressive start to the second Super 14.

After severely testing the NSW Waratahs at home in week one, the Lions held the Highlanders at bay 11-6 last weekend to chalk up their first win of the campaign.

That result now offers the side an opportunity to claim its first set of back-to-back wins since 2003, when the Cats beat both the ACT Brumbies and the Highlanders at Ellis Park.

The size of the task ahead of the Crusaders – who boast a large number of players that have never played at Ellis Park before – is highlighted by history.

Even though they boast the best road record of any side in Super rugby, the Crusaders have only won just over 50 per cent of their away matches in the Republic in Super rugby – down 30 per cent on their overall historic winning percentage of just over 80.

Against either Transvaal or the Cats, the Crusaders’ return away from home is three wins and two defeats, although the 1998 win over the Cats was secured in Bloemfontein.

Their two most recent wins at Ellis Park (both against the Cats) have also been decent scraps too.

In 2002, a Crusaders side that would ultimately wind up finishing the competition unbeaten had to claw its way back from 0-27 after 30 minutes to get away with a 37-30 result.

Two years later, the Crusaders opened up a 36-6 lead but then conceded 31 unanswered points in 25 minutes, and needed a late penalty goal from Dan Carter to lock up a 39-37 win.

Crusaders: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Rua Tipoki, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Johnny Leo’o, 6 Kieran Read, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn (captain), 1 Ben Franks
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Wyatt Crockett/Ben May, 18 Michael Paterson, 19 Jake Paringatai, 20 Kevin Senio, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Brent Ward

Date: Saturday 17 February
Time: 18:30 (16:30 GMT)
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Brett Bowden (Australia)
Touch judges: Paul Marks (Australia), Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

365 Digital

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