Rested, refreshed and itching to hit somebody ‑ the Crusaders have finally got their captain back.
Lock Sam Whitelock will make his first appearance of the Super Rugby season when the reigning champions visit the Highlanders at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.
He will start at lock alongside Scott Barrett, arguably the form player of the competition through the first month, as the competition frontrunners target a record‑extending 20th win on the bounce.
It will be Whitelock's first game since the All Blacks' narrow defeat to Ireland in Dublin last November, before New Zealand Rugby shut him down and instructed the Crusaders not to play him until at least week five.
Whitelock's return follows hooker Codie Taylor's last week. Only All Blacks captain Kieran Read, who is expected to return against the Hurricanes in a fortnight, remains unavailable.
The Highlanders were the last side to beat the Crusaders.
The Crusaders will take on the Highlanders at 6.35pm Saturday.
Crusaders: David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Harry Allan, Michael Alaalatoa, Quinten Strange, Tom Sanders, Ere Enari, Brett Cameron, Will Jordan.
Highlanders: Ben Smith (cc), Waisake Naholo, Sio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Richard Buckman, Josh Ioane, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock (cc), James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Jack Whetton, Josh Dickson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert‑Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Tom Franklin, Elliot Dixon, Dillon Hunt, Folau Fakatava, Marty Banks