Carter was included in the reserves on Thursday with rookie Tom Taylor named to have his first start in the No. 10 jersey, but coach Todd Blackadder said it was intended to play Carter for the last 30 to 35 minutes.
After his World Cup hopes were cruelly dashed six months ago when he ruptured his left groin while goal-kicking at the end of an All Blacks training session, Carter, since married and refreshed, can hardly wait for the call to take the field.
"I'm coming back from an injury which was pretty devastating and so the chance to play again is very exciting and there's no better way than doing it in front of our home people and in a new stadium," Carter said after the Crusaders ended their training at the new venue on Thursday.
A sell-out crowd of 17,000 is expected for the inaugural match at Christchurch Stadium and the Crusaders desperately need to find winning form after two close losses to New Zealand rivals and with their next two games in South Africa.
Carter will not have the goal-kicking responsibility – that will be with Taylor who has replaced Tyler Bleyendaal at first five-eighths. Carter has eased back into goal-kicking in the last fortnight, but is not kicking at full strength.
"I've kicked a few goals and it [groin] felt a lot better than it was, but I'm still only at 60 to 70 per cent at this stage so it helps having a player of Tom's calibre who can kick goals extremely well and can play either first or second five-eighths.
"I'd rather be out playing and able to kick, but haven't had the chance in the time frame – that will come in the next couple of weeks. But I'm working hard on my kicks so if I had to do a drop kick or take the restarts then I'd be happy to do that."
Four changes have been made to the Crusaders team which lost to the Chiefs in round three before having the bye in the last round. Ryan Crotty, back from a hamstring strain, has replaced Adam Whitelock and will form a new inside combination with Taylor.
In the pack, the youngest of the four Whitelock brothers, Luke, gets his first start on the blindside flank in place of his injured brother, George, and All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock replaces Tom Donnelly. In a positional change, Israel Dagg assumes his favoured position at fullback with Sean Maitland going from fullback to the right wing.
With only one win from three matches, the Crusaders are hungry for points, but Blackadder was very wary of a Cheetahs team which have won two of their last three clashes, including a 33-20 success at Bloemfontein last year.
"They're a great side. We're in no position to be under-estimating any side with our track record so far this year,' Blackadder said. He added that the Crusaders were determined to do the simple things well, something they failed to do in their last two losses.
1.Ben Franks, 2.Corey Flynn, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Luke Whitelock, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read (c), 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Tom Taylor, 11.Zac Guildford, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Robbie Fruean, 14.Sean Maitland, 15.Israel Dagg
Reserves: 16.Quentin MacDonald, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Ross Kennedy, 19.Brendon O'Connor, 20.Willi Heinz, 21.Dan Carter, 22.Tom Marshall