Damian McKenzie has been moved to first-five as the Chiefs look to extend their winning streak to four when they face the Crusaders this weekend.
Head coach Clayton McMillan said McKenzie's form and late-game heroics at fly half in recent weeks had been factors in the decision.
"It's always been an option available to us.
"It’s been working pretty well for us late in games so this is the week we see if we can get the same result earlier."
McMillan praised his All Black star for his performances this term and for showing more maturity and consistency in his game.
"He’s been outstanding. He’s back to his best, he’s really confident in what he’s doing.
"What he’s demonstrated most is he’s bringing a bit of maturity and accuracy to his game. Historically, being a little bit of a maverick, he seems to have toned that down and the team and himself are reaping the rewards as a result."
Chase Tiatia will start at fullback, while Alex Nankivell has been promoted to start in place of the injured Quinn Tupaea.
Lachlan Boshier will make his return from injury and start at seven, his brother Kaylum moving to the bench.
Meanwhile, Nathan Harris will also make his long-awaited return to the team, having torn his rotator cuff last year.
McMillan said the Chiefs needed to deliver a clinical performance.
“The Crusaders have proven year after year they are a formidable side that must be respected.
"They do the simple things extremely well and can suffocate you through their set piece.
"But they have been challenged in areas of their game over recent weeks, and the competition has highlighted how small the margins are between winning and losing.
“We ourselves have been far from perfect but I feel like we have grown our game considerably over the last month and can challenge the defending champions head on.
"We were embarrassed with aspects of our previous game against them, that has not been forgotten and we are determined
to perform much better in front of our passionate supporters.”
Chiefs team to face Crusaders at FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday 17th April:
15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa'i, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Pita Gus Sowakula, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Sean Wainui.