21 Jul 2016

Whitelock, Ellis return for Crusaders

7:51 pm on 21 July 2016

Lock Sam Whitelock and halfback Andy Ellis return to the Crusaders 15 for their Super Rugby quarterfinal showdown with the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday morning.

Andy Ellis

Andy Ellis Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The pair were late withdrawals from last week's 35-10 loss to the Hurricanes in Christchurch.

Whitelock will partner Luke Romano at lock, and Scott Barrett will provide cover from the bench.

Jordan Taufua comes back into the starting line-up at six, and Jimmy Tupou shifts to the bench.

The only changes to the backs are Jone Macilai taking the wing in the place of the injured Nemani Nadolo, and Ben Volavola taking a spot in the reserves in place of Mitchell Hunt.

Sam Whitelock.

Sam Whitelock Photo: Photosport

Meanwhile Lions coach Johan Ackermann will be hailed as a genius or dubbed a fool after his side's Super Rugby quarter-final clash.

Ackermann took a gamble in the final week of the regular season when he spared his top-line players a trip to Argentina so they could refresh for the quarter-finals.

His inexperienced side were demolished in the second half by the Jaguares and the 34-22 loss handed top-spot on the table to the Wellington Hurricanes, and set up a clash with the seven-time champion Crusaders.

"Is that an advantage?" Crusaders assistant coach Tabai Matson asked rhetorically earlier this week about Ackermann's decision. "I am not sure about that.

"Some people think otherwise, but I think having a week off before the playoffs isn't always ideal."

Had the Lions clinched even just a losing bonus point in Buenos Aires, they would have faced fellow South African side the Sharks at home rather than the New Zealanders, who have beaten the Lions in their last seven matches, four of which have come at Ellis Park and includes the 43-37 victory in April.