Match Details: Friday 2 April, 7:05pm, Orangetheory Stadium Christchurch
Referee: Mike Fraser
Won: Crusaders 29, Highlanders 11, 1 draw
Last match: Crusaders 26 Highlanders 13 in Dunedin on 26 February 2021
Watch: Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand & overseas broadcast information HERE.
Five and a half months after tearing his pectoral muscle at All Blacks training, George Bridge is back for the Crusaders on Friday night. He’s been thrust straight into the starting side, named on the right wing for the southern derby clash. It’s been the longest time Bridge has spent on the sidelines due to injury and while he hasn’t played in the number 14 jersey for a long time, he’s just happy to be out on the field.
INJURY CONCERNS FOR HIGHLANDERS
Long-term Injuries have hit the southern Super Rugby club in the form of former All Black Liam Squire and exciting up and comer Freedom Vahaakolo. Earlier this week the Highlanders confirmed Squire had suffered a season-ending knee injury. He had been dealing with recurrent issues with his knee and the decision was made for the 30 year-old to rehabilitate the injury. Meanwhile, having made his Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa debut for the Highlanders last weekend, winger Freedom Vahaakolo is also out for the season with a fractured foot. He sustained the injury at training and has been replaced by Scott Gregory on the right wing. In good news, they do welcome back electrifying winger Jona Nareki from injury.
KAZUKI GETS A START
Japanese international Kazuki Himeno will get his first start for the Highlanders on Friday night, having made his debut off the bench against the Hurricanes last weekend. Himeno was impressive, coming on in the second half, the loose forward made nine carries and beat four defenders, making 48 metres. At 187cm tall and 108kg, the 26 year-old gets another opportunity to showcase his skills up against, young and talented All Black Cullen Grace.
The Crusaders have won their last seven Super Rugby games against the Highlanders, an eighth consecutive win would set the record for the longest winning streak of either side in the history of this fixture.
The Highlanders have scored the opening try of the game in three of their last four away games against the Crusaders.
Crusaders: 1. Joe Moody 2. Codie Taylor 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Scott Barrett © 5. Samuel Whitelock 6. Ethan Blackadder 7. Sione Havili Talitui 8. Cullen Grace 9. Mitchell Drummond 10. Richie Mo’unga 11. Leicester Fainga’anuku 12. David Havili 13. Jack Goodhue 14. George Bridge 15. Will Jordan
Reserves: 16. Brodie McAlister 17. George Bower 18. Oliver Jager 19. Mitchell Dunshea 20. Whetukamokamo Douglas 21. Bryn Hall 22. Fergus Burke 23. Sevu Reece
Speights Highlanders: 1. Ethan De Groot 2. Ash Dixon (cc) 3. Siate Tokolahi 4. Bryn Evans 5. Pari Pari Parkinson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Billy Harmon 8. Kazuki Himeno 9. Folau Fakatava 10. Mitch Hunt 11. Jona Nareki 12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen 13. Michael Collins 14. Scott Gregory 15. Connor Garden-Bachop
Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman 17. Ayden Johnstone 18. Josh Hohneck 19. Josh Dickson 20. Hugh Renton 21. Aaron Smith (cc) 22. Caleb Makene 23. James Lentjes