Hello and welcome to our first live blog of the 2014 Super Rugby season. And what a cracking match to get the New Zealand season underway.
If the Chiefs wanted an early examination of their three-peat chances, visiting the Crusaders and leaving 10 players at home fits the bill.
The defending champions will play with a severely weakened squad tonight with Sam Cane, Gareth Anscombe, Tom Marshall, Tanerau Latimer, Mo Schwalger, Bundee Aki, Robbie Robinson and Hika Elliot all missing. Gee that's a long list.
But coach Dave Rennie is still confident that his charges - led by co-captains Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden - have enough quality to take a solid first step on the search for a hat-trick of titles.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has taken the opposite approach, leaving out some key players.
Former All Blacks wing Zac Guildford, who is leaving for France at the end of the year, has failed to make the squad, with Blackadder selecting Nafi Tuitavake, a wider training squad player yet to play Super Rugby, to partner the quick Johnny McNicoll.
Tim Perry, who played for the Blues last season, will start at loosehead prop, with Wyatt Crockett on the reserves bench.
All Black Tom Taylor is also in the reserves, with Tyler Bleyendaal preferred at No10. Ryan Crotty and Reynold Lee-Lo, who played for the Hurricanes last year, make up the midfield.
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will captain the team at openside flanker, partnering George Whitelock and Luke Whitelock in the loose forwards. Kieran Read will have this week off.
I'm Steven Holloway and tonight I aim to be your one stop shop. If you can't see the game, I will be your ears and if you're using this as a 'second screen' I will try to provide some extra detail through pics, tweets, stats and expert opinion.
We are thirty minutes away from kick off now and the atmosphere around the stadium is starting to buzz. Who are you picking tonight? Click 'comment' to join the chat and have your say.
1 Tim Perry ,2 Corey Flynn ,3 Owen Franks ,4 Samuel Whitelock,5 Dominic Bird,6 George Whitelock ,7 Richie McCaw (c) ,8 Luke Whitelock,9 Andy Ellis ,10 Tyler Bleyendaal ,11 Nafi Tuitavake ,12 Ryan Crotty (vc) ,13 Reynold Lee-Lo ,14 Johnny McNicholl ,15 Israel Dagg
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett , 18 Nepo Laulala , 19 Luke Romano ,20 Matt Todd ,21 Willi Heinz , 22 Tom Taylor,23 Rob Thompson
1. Jamie Mackintosh,2. Rhys Marshall,3. Ben Tameifuna,4. Michael Fitzgerald,5. Brodie Retallick,6. Liam Messam ,7. Tevita Koloamatangi,8. Kane Thompson,9. Augustine Pulu,10. Aaron Cruden (c),11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma,12. Charlie Ngatai,13. Robbie Fruean,14. Tim Nanai-Williams,15. Mils Muliaina,
Replacements :16. Nathan Harris,17. Pauliasi Manu,18. Ben Afeaki,19. Matt Symons/Liam Squire,20. Nick Crosswell,21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow,22. Andrew Horrell/Anton Lienert-Brown,23. James Lowe
So what's the TAB saying? Well both sides tonight are paying $4.50 to win the overall Super Rugby competition. Tonight? Crusaders are paying $1.50 while the Chiefs are $2.45 outsiders. Remember to gamble responsibly.
Here is what new Herald columnist Justin Marshall has to say about the two teams:
So much hinges on their first game, at home to the Chiefs tonight.
This is such an intriguing match-up because the Chiefs have had a big-game hoodoo on the Crusaders for a couple of years now.
They will be desperate to win this game but unfortunately they're going to have to do it without Kieran Read.
The way the Crusaders play, a lot of their gameplan is based around Read's skillset at No 8. They will have to adapt to him being missing.
I get the feeling that the only result that will suffice in Christchurch this year is a Super Rugby title. The expectation level is always the playoffs, but in 2014 it is winning finals.
You can't be anything but super-impressed by the Chiefs ruthlessness, their talent, their talent identification and the culture they have created in Hamilton. They're the benchmark team, the new Crusaders.
The key for them is to stay innovative and stay ahead of the pack. And even though they've obviously done this well, Dave Rennie and co will need to keep 'managing' that squad to keep everybody happy.
You look at that backline and there is just an abundance of players. They've got guys who should be playing Super Rugby every weekend, but they won't be. A guy like Gareth Anscombe did really well for the Chiefs last year but he might struggle to get a look-in.
Is Tim Nanai-Williams going to get consistent game time in one position?
They've done a wonderfully job of it so far but the Chiefs have to make sure all these guys feel like they are valuable contributors to the cause.
Thanks for your contribution 'Pineapple go both', but I must stress your comments have a better chance of making the blog if they make sense.
Just five minutes away from kick off now and a sold-out AMI Stadium is ready to rock. Are you? Early poll results suggest the majority think the Chiefs will get it done tonight. Do you agree? Let us know what you think and where you're tuning in from tonight.
It's a beautiful night in Christchurch, nice and fine with very little wind. The scene is set for a goodie.
The Chiefs are first out of the tunnel and receive a muted response from the Canty locals.
Richie McCaw now follows with the Crusaders and a huge roar goes up as he jogs out onto the turf.
Fireworks, wolf whistles and some gentlemanly applause. It's all go.
Referee Chris Pollock tweets the whistle and we are underway. Aaron Cruden with the kick off.
Cruden kicks deep down to Sam Whitelock who drags it down easily.
Ellis throws a poor pass on the blindside and the ball spirals out of play.
Chiefs have a lineout 25 metres out.
But they are pinged for offside. Koloamatangi was the man who offended. Bleyendaal punts the ball down field.
Crusaders with good ball now inside the Chiefs half.
George Whitelock makes a strong run up the guts.
Crusaders go wide left now but the ball is lost forward by Nafi Tuitavake.
Chiefs with a scrum now deep in their own half. Four minutes in and it's all been a bit stop start.
Chiefs pinged for not rolling away in the tackle and the Crusaders pick up another penalty.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna did not get any smaller in the off-season, I will tell you that for free
Bleyendaal gets good distance with the kick and the Crusaders now have an attacking lineout.
Crusaders lose the ball forward just 10m out. Good opportunity missed there.
Good Crusaders scrum puts the pressure on the Chiefs. They eventually clear but the ref comes back for a penalty for offside.
Being a ref must be a stressful job. Chris Pollock has notably gone grey during the past couple of years
The Crusaders gave up the penalty but will be impressed with the grunt they showed at scrumtime.