Super Rugby's premier rivalry has drawn out two star-studded lineups for this weekend with the Blues and Crusaders going all out for Saturday's replay of last year's final.
The Blues host the reigning champions this weekend and Leon MacDonald has named a side that reflects that status, welcoming back in-form wing Mark Telea to his all-All Blacks backline.
MacDonald has made adjustments elsewhere too, including three in the forwards pack where an injured Patrick Tuipulotu has been replaced by James Tucker.
MacDonald has also handed a start to Adrian Choat at blindside flanker with Tom Robinson shifting to the bench as lock cover.
The reserves also feature Soane Vikena, Jordan Lay, Taine Plumtree and Zarn Sullivan who are all looking to get their first cap for 2023.
"It was a bruising encounter against the Hurricanes last weekend with a few sore bodies around Blues HQ at the start of the week,” said MacDonald.
"Motivation for this match wasn’t an issue; I know the boys still hurt from the final last year and want to put in a strong performance against a Crusaders side who we know will be hungry and determined.”
MacDonald also reflected on the 2003 final and joked how his allegiances have shifted this time around after running out for the Crusaders 20 years ago.
"It’s funny how things change, I was playing in that 2003 final that the Blues won and now I’m very keen to see history repeat itself on Saturday night."
It won't be an easy task with opposite Scott Robertson also naming a stacked squad for the fixture.
After last week's shock loss to the Fijian Drua, Robertson has named 10 All Blacks in his starting XV with George Bower, while former England international Willi Heinz has also been selected on the bench.
“It’s going to be a hell of a weekend,” Robertson said.
“We’ve had some historic games over the last few years haven’t we. They beat us at home, we’ve beat them up there and they’ve got some awesome rugby players playing for them.”
Robertson has also handed a debut to Pepesana Patafilo on the bench as cover in the backs.
“He works hard and tops a lot of our stats in our GPS tracking during training. So, we’re excited for him and so is he,” Robertson said.
Blues vs Crusaders, Saturday March 18, Eden Park, 7:05pm
Blues: 15. Stephen Perofeta, 14. Mark Telea, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11. Caleb Clarke, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Finlay Christie; 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 7. Dalton Papalii (c), 6. Adrian Choat, 5. Cameron Suafoa, 4. James Tucker, 3. James Lay, 2. Ricky Riccitelli, 1. Alex Hodgman
Reserves: 16. Soane Vikena, 17. Jordan Lay, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Tom Robinson, 20. Taine Plumtree, 21. Taufa Funaki, 22. Bryce Heem, 23. Zarn Sullivan
Crusaders: 15. Fergus Burke, 14. Sevu Reece, 13. Braydon Ennor, 12. Dallas McLeod, 11. Leicester Fainga'anuku, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 9. Mitchell Drummond, 8. Sione Havili Talitui, 7. Tom Christie, 6. Ethan Blackadder, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Scott Barrett (c), 3. Tamaiti Williams, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Joe Moody
Reserves: 16. Brodie McAlister, 17. Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 18. George Bower, 19. Zach Gallagher, 20. Christian Lio-Willie, 21. Willi Heinz, 22. Pepesana Patafilo, 23. Macca Springer