(Reuters) – Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said the nine-times Super Rugby champions would be playing for the Christchurch “community” on Saturday when they turn out for their first match since the deadly mosque shootings in the city.
The Christchurch-based team, who are considering changing their name after the attacks because of its association with the medieval religious wars between Christians and Muslims, meet the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.
Both teams will unite in minute’s silence on the Sydney Cricket Ground pitch before the match in tribute to the fifty people who died in the attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city last Friday.
“This tragedy has rocked our community, and we really feel for all those affected by the events of last Friday in Christchurch,” Robertson said in a media release.
“Our hearts go out to people across our city, our region, and our country who are grieving right now and we’re grateful for the opportunity to pay our respects before the game.
“We’ll certainly be playing for our community on Saturday night.”
The Crusaders have made two changes to the side that was named to play the Otago Highlanders last Saturday, before the game was cancelled in the wake of Christchurch attacks.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and lock Scott Barrett will take a mandated rest under welfare protocols designed to reduce the possibility of burnout in the All Blacks squad before the Rugby World Cup later this year.
Mo’unga will be replaced in the number 10 shirt by one-cap All Black Brett Cameron, while Quinten Strange comes in for Barrett in the second row.
The Crusaders have not been beaten in Super Rugby for a little over two years, while the 2014 champion Waratahs have lost two of their first four matches this season.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)