PREVIEW: Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa – Highlanders v Crusaders

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Match Details: Saturday 4 July, 7.05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

 

Referee: Mike Fraser

Played: 38

Won: Crusaders 26, Highlanders 11, Drawn 1

Last match: Crusaders 33, Highlanders 13 (21 February 2020)

Watch: Sky Sport 1

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FORM

The Crusaders are unbeaten after two games with contrasting victories under their belts. They were in vintage form against the Hurricanes in round two with a bonus point 39-25 win in Wellington. The conditions weren’t on their side in round three as they held on for an 18-13 win over the Chiefs in the Christchurch wet. The Highlanders opened their campaign with a last gasp win over the Chiefs before falling short against the Blues at Eden Park last week.

840 DAYS

It has been more than two years since these teams last clashed under the roof in Dunedin. On that day, it was the Highlanders who came out on top with a thrilling 25-17 win. The Highlanders have made Forsyth Barr Stadium a real fortress over the last decade and will be hoping their passionate home fans will be able to lift them to another famous victory on Saturday night.

 

PERFECT PIVOTS

One of the most intriguing clashes on the park happens at first five-eighth where former teammates Richie Mo’unga and Mitchell Hunt square off. Hunt spent four seasons at the Crusaders as the understudy to Mo’unga and will relish the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks playmaker. Ironically, Hunt’s most memorable moment for the Crusaders came against the Highlanders in 2017 when he struck a last gasp drop goal to snatch an unlikely win for the team in red.

 

CHANGED CRUSADERS

Coach Scott Robertson has made five changes to the starting side and one positional change, with Will Jordan moving to the right wing to make way for David Havili at fullback. Elsewhere in the backs, Bryn Hall and George Bridge are rested, meaning Mitch Drummond starts at halfback and Leicester Faingaanuku on the left wing. Injury to standout blindside flanker Cullen Grace means Ethan Blackadder earns a promotion from the bench and Tom Christie gets a start in the seven jersey.

FRONT ROW REFRESH

The Highlanders have re-jigged their front row in anticipation of a rugged battle against the Crusaders trio of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Michael Alaalatoa.  A mobile front row of Daniel Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman and Jeff Thwaites has been named by the Highlanders. “We are fortunate to have some depth in our front row so we have the ability to make changes, this is a tough competition and as always the Crusaders will present a real challenge on Saturday night,” said forwards coach,  Clarke Dermody.

 

STATCHAT (Opta)

The Crusaders have won 11 of their last 12 Super Rugby matches. In that period, they have conceded just 7.2 first half points per game.

 

TEAMS

Highlanders: 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown 2. Liam Coltman 3. Jeff Thwaites 4. Paripari Parkinson 5. Josh Dickson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Dillon Hunt 8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u 9. Aaron Smith (CC) 10. Mitch Hunt

11. Jona Nareki 12. Patelesio Tomkinson 13. Rob Thompson 4. Ngatungane Punivai 15. Michael Collins

 

Reserves:

16. Ash Dixon (CC) 17. Ayden Johnstone 18. Siate Tokolahi 19. Jack Whetton 20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas 21. Kayne Hammington 22. Bryn Gatland 23. Vilimoni Koroi

 

Crusaders: 1. Joe Moody 2. Codie Taylor (C) 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Samuel Whitelock 5. Mitchell Dunshea 6. Ethan Blackadder 7. Tom Christie 8.   Whetukamokamo Douglas (VC) 9. Mitchell Drummond 10. Richie Mo'unga 11. Leicester Faingaanuku 12. Jack Goodhue 13. Braydon Ennor

14. Will Jordan 15. David Havili (VC)

 

Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio 17. George Bower 18. Oliver Jager 19. Quinten Strange 20. Sione Havili 21. Ereatara Enari 22. Fetuli Paea* 23. Sevu Reece

 

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