All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter starts at inside centre for the first time in seven years when the Crusaders take on the unbeaten Stormers in a round-eight Super Rugby clash in Christchurch on Saturday.
Carter last started in the No.12 jersey outside Andrew Mehrtens against the Waratahs in Sydney in 2005, but says he envisages no transitional problems shifting out from his usual five-eighth spot.
Rookie Tom Taylor will wear the No.10 jersey and assume goal-kicking responsibilities after Carter, recently back after a long lay-off with a groin injury, missed three penalty goals in the two-point loss to the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend.
Playing two specialist five-eighths will give the Crusaders left-foot (Carter) and right-foot (Taylor) kicking options, while Carter’s midfield presence will also shore up a defence which will need to be at its best to contain the forceful Stormers pairing of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh.
“They are both great ball carriers, so it’s really important that defensively we are on our game,” Carter said.
“They’ve shown what a great defensive side they are so, when they do get opportunities with ball in hand, we’ve got to make sure our defence is sound as well.”
Carter says he’s happy to hand over goalkicking duties to Taylor while he works on strengthening his groin.
“Each week, it’s feeling a bit better, but the groin is still a little tight. Tom is an excellent goalkicker and it gives me a little more time to rehab the groin and get some power and strength there.”
Coach Todd Blackadder has made three changes to the team who lost to the Bulls. Ben Franks comes into the front row for his propping brother, Owen, and the taller Tom Donnelly gets the nod over Luke Romano at lock.
Taylor’s selection is at the expense of Ryan Crotty.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee wants his team to lift their effort at the set piece and breakdowns against the seven-time champions, who are six places and nine points behind the visiting South Africans.
“They’ve got a quality tight five and are technically sound in all departments,” Coetzee said.
The Stormers have a dismal record against the Crusaders, with only four wins in 17 matches. The Crusaders have won five of the past six including two wins in Cape Town last year, the second being 29-10 in the semi-final.