Super Rugby Pacific teams: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns, Crusaders lose another lock

The coaches of the six New Zealand-based franchises have made the tough decisions and will make their lineups public across Wednesday.

We look at the selection talking points ahead of round eight, which kicks off with a Good Friday humdinger between the Crusaders and Blues in Christchurch.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns from his shoulder injury to take a place on the Blues bench on Friday in Christchurch.

Derek Morrison/Photosport

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns from his shoulder injury to take a place on the Blues bench on Friday in Christchurch.

CRUSADERS v BLUES

Friday, 7.05pm at Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch

A serious calf injury to lock Quinten Strange has elevated rookie Zach Gallagher into the starting side for the Crusaders’ heavyweight home game against the Blues.

Gallagher will make his first start of his young career, alongside captain Scott Barrett after the latest hit to the red and blacks’ locking stocks.

Crusaders lock Zach Gallagher will make the first start of his Super Rugby career on Friday night, when the red and blacks host the Blues in Christchurch.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Crusaders lock Zach Gallagher will make the first start of his Super Rugby career on Friday night, when the red and blacks host the Blues in Christchurch.

Strange is expected to miss between six and eight weeks after going down in a heap against the Hurricanes in Wellington last week, and join Sam Whitelock (finger) and Mitchell Dunshea (knee) on the sidelines.

Head coach Scott Robertson said Whitelock was “close” to returning this week, while Dunshea is gone for the season.

Rookie loose forward Dominic Gardiner will provide locking cover from the bench.

Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Tom Christie, Ethan Blackadder, Zach Gallagher, Scott Barrett (c), Oli Jager, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reservations: Ricky Jackson, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Dominic Gardiner, Pablo Matera, Mitch Drummond, Fergus Burke, George Bridge.

It ain’t broke, so the Blues weren’t looking to fix too much in their lineup to face the Crusaders.

Leon MacDonald has made two changes to his starting XV and three more on the bench in the wake of the Blues’ statement 25-0 shutout of the Chiefs in Hamilton last Saturday – their sixth victory on the bounce in Super Rugby Pacific.

Blues midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Scheck will get a shot to make an impact off the bench against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.

Joe Allison/Getty Images

Blues midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Scheck will get a shot to make an impact off the bench against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.

All Blacks tourist Finlay Christie, a late withdrawal on Saturday post-warmup, is back as starting halfback and AJ Lam gets the nod on the right wing this week, ahead of Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, with Caleb Clarke still serving his suspension.

The most notable additions are on the bench, where star off-season signing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returns from a shoulder injury and tighthead prop Nepo Laulala is back from suspension. Zarn Sullivan is also tabbed for a return off the pine, providing he passes a late fitness test.

All Black Ofa Tuungafasi has been cleared to start at tighthead prop, despite receiving 28 stitches in a facial wound against the Chiefs, while veteran lock Luke Romano has been green-lighted to run out against his old team in an unchanged second row alongside Josh Goodhue .

The Blues are chasing their first victory in Christchurch since 2004.

Blues: Stephen Perofeta, AJ Lam, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Mark Telea, Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii (c), Tom Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Luke Romano, Ofa Tuungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman. Reservations: Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay, Nepo Laulala, James Tucker, Adrian Choat, Taufua Funaki, Roger Tuivasa-Shecka, Zarn Sullivan/Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens.

CHIEFS v MOANA PASIFIKA

Saturday, 4.35pm at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton

Chiefs: TBC

Moana Pasifika: TBC

The Highlanders will host the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday night.

Elias Rodriguez/Photosport

The Highlanders will host the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday night.

HIGHLANDERS v HURRICANES

Saturday, 7.05pm at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Highlanders: TBC

Hurricanes: TBC

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