It was a star-studded Crusaders side which ran onto Trafalgar Park in 2015 featuring All Black Dan Carter. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport (File).

Crusaders returning to Nelson

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The Super Rugby champions will kick off their title defence at Trafalgar Park this Saturday in what will be the franchise’s first visit to the city since 2015.

The Crusaders, will take on the New South Wales Waratahs in the season opener as they chase a record fourth consecutive championship.

It’s been five long years since Nelson hosted the Crusaders when they beat the Hurricanes 38-15 with a side featuring All Black greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

The match will be a homecoming for a number of Nelson based players, including Leicester Fainga’anuku, Quinten Strange, David Havili and Ethan Blackadder.

Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge says the club enjoys plenty of great support from the top of the South Island and, with a number of Crusaders players coming from the Tasman region, it’s a fantastic opportunity to take a Super Rugby game to one of its provincial unions.

“The fixture also falls on Nelson Anniversary weekend, providing local rugby fans with an opportunity to enjoy some great footy over their long weekend.”

Tasman Rugby CEO Tony Lewis says the Tasman region loves it when our franchise comes to town.

“We are excited about the match and especially the large number of Mako players in the Crusaders team. The weekend will be a great festival occasion similar to the 2018 test match.”

Though there may not be the star factor that was on display in 2015, the Crusaders boast a typically powerful squad with a host of current All Blacks.

World Cup breakout stars George Bridge and Sevu Reece will be sure to light up the sidelines with their blistering pace while Richie Mou’unga will bring his bag of tricks as he steers the ship for the Crusaders.

With the retirement of Kieran Read and departures of Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua, the pack will have a new look to it, but still retains internationals Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Michael Alaalatoa, skipper Scott Barrett and Luke Romano.

The Crusaders and Waratahs have also partnered for the game in Nelson to raise funds to support Rural Aid in Australia – helping relief efforts due to the current bushfires.

For every try scored on Saturday night by a Crusaders player, the Crusaders will donate $1000 to Rural Aid.

The Waratahs will match this for tries scored by their team.

The match will kick off at the earlier time of 7.05pm on Saturday February 1.

For tickets click here.

Crusaders vs Waratahs 7:05pm Saturday February 1 Trafalgar Park, Nelson.