The stage is set for a sensational semifinal showdown at AMI Stadium in Christchurch this Saturday. Only one team will remain in the running for the coveted 2017 Investec Super Rugby title when referee Glen Jackson blows the whistle to end this weekend’s war between the Gallagher Chiefs and the BNZ Crusaders.

Head coach Dave Rennie has named his strongest possible team to do battle with the Southerners at 7.35pm on Saturday night. There are just three changes to the side that defeated the Stormers 17-11 in a spirited Cape Town quarterfinal contest last weekend.

Resilient midfielder Charlie Ngatai returns from an ankle injury to start at second five-eighth, with veteran utility back Stephen Donald vacating the number 12  jersey to bolster the bench. Experienced Samoan-International Tim Nanai-Williams is promoted from the reserves to start on the right wing.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the BNZ Crusaders at 7.35pm this Saturday in Christchurch is:

1.            Kane Hames (24)

2.            Nathan Harris (30)

3.            Nepo Laulala (14)

4.            Mitchell Brown (17)

5.            Brodie Retallick (84)

6.            Liam Messam (161)

7.            Sam Cane (94) – Co-captain

8.            Michael Leitch (33)

9.            Tawera Kerr-Barlow (82)

10.         Aaron Cruden (88) – Co-captain

11.         James Lowe (52)

12.         Charlie Ngatai (42)

13.         Anton Lienert-Brown (39)

14.         Tim Nanai-Williams (84)

15.         Damian McKenzie (49)    

RESERVES:

16.         Liam Polwart (5)

17.         Aidan Ross (5)

18.         Atu Moli (27)

19.         Dominic Bird (28)

20.         Lachlan Boshier (18)

21.         Finlay Christie (9)

22.         Stephen Donald (103)

23.         Shaun Stevenson (24)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets

Not considered for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Sam McNicol, Toni Pulu, Taleni Seu, Hika Elliot and Johnny Faauli.

Brace yourself for another huge NZ derby this weekend when we visit the Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch for the highly anticipated semi final of the Investec Super Rugby competition. There’s a lot on the line with a spot in the final up for grabs, where the victor will face either the Hurricanes or the Lions who will battle it out in the other semi final.

Both teams come into this game off the back of solid performances in their respective quarter finals. The Crusaders held their nerve to defeat their Southern rivals the Highlanders, with a dominating performance, winning 17-0 in wet conditions. The Gallagher Chiefs left Cape Town victors 17-11, after a bruising battle with the Stormers. The reliable boot of Damian McKenzie and a late try by Shaun Stevenson proved to be the difference and they’ll look to build on that in Christchurch.

There’s a great rivalry between the two teams with two epic semi finals played out in recent occasions that will live long in the memories of Chiefs fans. 2012 and 2013 saw the Gallagher Chiefs host the Crusaders in back to back home semi’s with the Chiefs coming out on top 20-17 and 20-19 respectively in nail biters. Co-captain Aaron Cruden played crucial roles in both games, and will be looking to assert that valuable experience on Saturday evening.

The Gallagher Chiefs have a dominant record in recent times over the Crusaders, winning eight of the last 12 matches since 2012, including three wins from their last three visits in Christchurch.

Damian McKenzie has been a constant threat in 2017, and leads the competition charts with 1565 metres from 223 carries. McKenzie has accumulated 132 points this campaign and will be looking to add to that tally tonight. Brodie Retallick has been another ever present in the forward pack. The big lock has been crucial in defence, boasting a 93.2% tackle completion rate, making over 124 tackles.

The Crusaders have a star-studded All Blacks front row, which includes Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks. They will lock to be dominant in the scrum and provide a platform for their exciting backline which features the likes of Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Israel Dagg and David Havili. First five-eighth Richie Mo’unga has done a great job at directing the Crusaders backline in 2017, and has managed an impressive 116 points from the 11 games he’s played.

It will be a fantastic battle come Saturday, with key match ups all over the field. The game kicks off at 7:35pm and fans will be able to tune in on Sky Sport 1. Alternatively, if you plan on travelling down to support the boys, make sure you have your tickets secured here. Get ready for it and enjoy the game, it is sure to be a cracker! 

The Gallagher Chiefs are through to the Super Rugby semi-finals after a tense and hard fought 17-11 win over the Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town.

In a rematch of their round robin encounter at the same venue back in April, the Gallagher Chiefs exacted revenge for that loss with a gritty and controlled display, as the boot of fullback Damian McKenzie and a late try to replacement Shaun Stevenson helped them grind out the victory.

To open the match, a nice period on attack from the Stormers was met by some rock solid Gallagher Chiefs defence, and they comfortably stopped over 10 phases of attack before McKenzie cleared with a long punt.

Both teams then had their moments on attack, with the Stormers enjoying the better of possession and territory in the opening quarter, but handling errors at either end of the field prevented any points being scored.

Despite neither side really threatening to get on the scoreboard, the high tempo of the match mixed with the tense playoff atmosphere among both the players and the crowd, made for some entertaining play.

Finally, in the 24th minute, the first scoring opportunity of the afternoon was presented to the home side with a penalty 40 metres out, and fullback SP Marais gave the Stormers the lead.

A couple of minutes later a huge scrum from the Gallagher Chiefs produced a penalty and McKenzie was on target with an equally impressive kick, over 40 metres out on the angle, to tie the scores.

After a charging run from the restart by second five Stephen Donald, the Gallagher Chiefs then earned another penalty near the halfway line as the Stormers held onto the ball at the ruck after a knock on. McKenzie nailed his second long range attempt to nudge the Chiefs in front.

With momentum shifting in their favour, the visitors worked their way downfield once more with back to back penalties putting huge pressure on the Stormers defence. From a lineout five metres from the line, the Gallagher Chiefs patiently worked towards the middle of the field before being awarded yet another penalty. This time they opted for the shot at goal and McKenzie extended the lead to 9-3.

There was one last Stormers attack before halftime but hooker Nathan Harris won a timely penalty at the breakdown to ensure the Gallagher Chiefs held their lead as the teams headed into the break.

The Stormers needed a strong start to the second half to get the crowd back into the match, and they got it as they worked the ball towards the Chiefs line with captain Siya Kolisi crossing in the right hand corner for the first try of the match.

Marais pushed his sideline conversion attempt wide and the Gallagher Chiefs held on to a one point lead.

A knock on from the restart gave the Gallagher Chiefs a chance to respond quickly, and after 15 phases of sustained pressure they came away with another three points from the boot of McKenzie.

Despite plenty of possession, handling errors at crucial times began to cost the home side as they remained behind by four points with the match heading into the final quarter, but they were given an extra boost as Sam Cane was yellow carded for a high tackle.

With the one-man advantage, the home side swung onto attack and soon narrowed the Gallagher Chiefs lead back to one point with Marais slotting his second penalty.

Cane returned from the sin bin with no further damage done, but the Gallagher Chiefs were clinging on to their slim lead with 10 minutes still remaining.

Marais had a penalty chance from out wide to put his side in front, from a similar position to his conversion attempt, but he again pushed it wide.

As play shifted back downfield the Gallagher Chiefs suddenly looked likely against a tiring Stormers defence, and a pin point wide pass from first five Aaron Cruden found an unmarked Shaun Stevenson who scored in the right hand corner with his first touch of the match, having only just taken the field as a replacement for Solomon Alaimalo.

McKenzie couldn’t convert so the Stormers had one last chance with just two minutes left to keep their season alive.

Their late charge lasted several phases but some staunch Chiefs defence saw them hang on for the win to book their spot in next weekend’s Super Rugby semi-finals.

Gallagher Chiefs 17 (Shaun Stevenson try; Damian McKenzie 4 pens) Stormers 11 (Siya Kolisi try; SP Marais 2 pens) HT: 9-3.

The Gallagher Chiefs now return to New Zealand for a mouth-watering semi-final match up in Christchurch against the Crusaders.

For eight teams, the dream of holding the 2017 Investec Super Rugby trophy aloft is one step closer. The unforgiving nature of sudden death finals footy guarantees the road will end this weekend for four of those teams.

Almost a year to the day, the Gallagher Chiefs will meet the Stormers again in their quarterfinal at DHL Newlands, Cape Town. Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named a powerful lineup to challenge for a place in the 2017 Super Rugby semi-finals.

In the forwards, Kane Hames, Nathan Harris and Nepo Laulala form a formidable front row, with the hard-working duo of Brodie Retallick and Mitchell Brown partnering at lock. Liam Messam, co-captain Sam Cane and Michael Leitch form a highly experienced loose forward trio.

In the backs, veteran halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow will start in jersey nine with co-captain Aaron Cruden to steer the ship at 1st five-eighth. In the midfield Centurion Stephen Donald will don jersey 12, with Anton Lienert-Brown to start at centre. James Lowe, Solomon Alaimalo and Damian McKenzie complete an exciting backline in jerseys 11, 14 and 15 respectively.

The Gallagher Chiefs team to play the Stormers at 5pm this Saturday (3am, Sunday NZT) is:

1. Kane Hames (23)
2. Nathan Harris (29)
3. Nepo Laulala (13)
4. Brodie Retallick (83)
5. Mitchell Brown (16)
6. Liam Messam (160)
7. Sam Cane (93) – Co-captain
8. Michael Leitch (32)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (81)
10. Aaron Cruden (87) – Co-captain
11. James Lowe (51)
12. Stephen Donald (102)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (38)
14. Solomon Alaimalo (8)
15. Damian McKenzie (48)

RESERVES:

16. Liam Polwart (4)
17. Aidan Ross (4)
18. Atu Moli (26)
19. Dominic Bird (27)
20. Lachlan Boshier (17)
21. Finlay Christie (8)
22. Tim Nanai-Williams (83)
23. Shaun Stevenson (23)

() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets


Unavailable for selection: Brad Weber, Mitchell Graham, Sam McNicol, Toni Pulu, Taleni Seu, Charlie Ngatai and Alex Nankivell.