George Bridge and Richie Mo’unga will start for the Crusaders against the Blues despite their alleged involvement in separate incidents in South Africa.
Bridge has been identified as one of the Crusaders players accused of homophobic behaviour at a McDonalds in Cape Town in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Crusaders drew with the Stormers at Newlands only hours before.
A woman has alleged that Mo’unga spat beer at her and her friends at a bar in Pretoria a week earlier. Both are cooperating with the New Zealand Rugby investigation at present, but are still free to play for the Crusaders this weekend.
‘I have had a number of conversations with them and looked them in the eye,’ said Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. ‘Firstly, from a personal point of view, are they OK? Then I talked to them about their role in the team, and they’re really keen to play.
‘There is no reason that they shouldn’t play, from our point of view. And now the process has started in the investigation, it makes them feel comfortable because they can get their point of view out, now they can go and be professional and play rugby.’
The Crusaders will be without All Blacks captain Kieran Read this week. The No 8 withdrew from the Stormers clash due to a neck injury. The Crusaders have confirmed that Read would have missed the game against the Blues in any event due to the All Blacks’ resting policy.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18 George Bower, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images