Ryan Crotty to play 150th match as Crusaders aim for top spot

Vice-captain Ryan Crotty will play his 150th Super Rugby game for the Crusaders, when they host the Melbourne Rebels in their final match before the playoffs.

Crotty will slot in a second-five, partnering All Blacks teammate Jack Goodhue in the midfield, as the two-time defending champions aim to bounce back from last week's dismal 40-27 defeat to the Chiefs in Suva.

As a token of Crotty's services to the club, the Christchurch Stadium West Stand has been renamed the 'Ryan Crotty Stand' for this match.

Coach Scott Robertson has made two changes to the starting side that lost to the Chiefs, with Matt Todd returning to the loose forwards in place of Billy Harmon, while Bryn Hall starts at halfback, with Ereatara Enari providing cover off the bench.

Outside back George Bridge, who came off the bench during the Chiefs loss, has missed the matchday 23 on an All Blacks rest week. He's been replaced by rookie Ngane Punivai.

Meanwhile, prop Tim Perry will make his long-awaited Super Rugby return off the bench, after recovering from a broken arm sustained in the Crusaders' season-opener. He replaces Isi Tu'ungafasi in the 17 jersey.

But the Crusaders remain without Owen Franks, who continues to battle a shoulder injury.

Crusaders management had hoped the 31-year-old tighthead prop would be fit to play in the red-and-blacks' final regular-season match, but Robertson believes he'll benefit from another fortnight on the sidelines.

The Crusaders need just one point from the match to secure top spot and home advantage throughout the Super Rugby playoffs.

The Rebels' only win over the Crusaders in Christchurch came in 2015, when they won the season opener 20-10.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne-based side will miss key players for the match as part of the Wallabies' enforced rest in their World Cup preparations.

Halfback Will Genia will miss the match, with first-five Quade Cooper and winger Marika Korobete named on the bench.

Crusaders: 1-Joe Moody, 2-Andrew Makalio, 3-Michael Alaalatoa, 4-Scott Barrett, 5-Sam Whitelock (C), 6-Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7-Billy Harmon, 8-Kieran Read, 9-Bryn Hall, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 11-Braydon Ennor, 12-Ryan Crotty, 13-Jack Goodhue, 14-Sevu Reece, 15-David Havili

Reserves: 16- Ben Funnell, 17-Tim Perry, 18-George Bower, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Jordan Taufua, 21-Ereatara Enari, 22-Brett Cameron, 23-Ngane Punivai


Photo Stuff.co. Caption: Ryan Crotty in training