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The Crusaders will be looking to continue their unbeaten run in Super Rugby Aotearoa when they face the Highlanders at Orangetheory stadium tonight. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 5:05pm (AEDT).
The Crusaders have been the benchmark for Super Rugby Aotearoa this season, winning four from four, and have shown no signs of slowing down. The Highlanders have had a shocker so far, only one win from their four matches, and will be desperate to put themselves back into contention with a win tonight.
The head-to-head matchup sees the Crusaders ahead 25-12, with 16 of the Crusaders victories coming at home.
In their last meeting, the Crusaders left the deep south with an easy win, 26-13. The Highlanders will need to raise their game immensely from last week’s loss to the Hurricanes to have any chance of knocking off last year’s champions.
The Crusaders will be well refreshed after completing their bye and will be looking to Richie Mo’unga to repeat his heroics from two weeks ago, where he put the Blues to the sword. They will be looking to do the double over their southernmost rivals and continue their blockbusting form as they look towards the Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
The Crusaders have made two changes coming out of the bye with the excitement machine George Bridge returning to the starting 15 on the right wing. The in-form Leicester Fainga’anuku retains his spot on the left wing with Sevu Reece moving to the bench. Mitchell Drummond comes into the starting lineup for his 98th Crusaders cap which forces Bryn Hall onto the bench.
Meanwhile, this Highlanders squad has been thrown into turmoil with six players stood down for breaking team standards. Josh Ioane, Sione Misiloi, Daniel Leinart-Brown, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Teariki Ben-Nicholas and Patelesio Tomkinson were all dropped from the squad for “breaking the code” according to coach Tony Brown. They will however be buoyed by the inclusion of Jona Nareki who has passed all his fitness tests and will be looking to continue the form that has him as a potential All Black bolter.
The Highlanders have made a number of other changes to the team that looked out of sorts last week against the Hurricanes. Another exciting inclusion to the starting lineup is flanker Kazuki Himeno. The Japanese international looked strong in his debut last week and will be looking to add some much needed fire to the Highlanders pack.
In other selections, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Scott Gregory and Folau Fakatava have come into the starting lineup while Aaron Smith moves to the bench. Caleb Makene comes onto the bench and will be looking to make an impression as he makes his Super Rugby debut.
With the players being stood down for this Highlanders squad grabbing the headlines, the Crusaders will dominate this matchup and could be looking at a cricket score by the end of the game. They have been the most dominant team in Super Rugby Aotearoa this season and have the lineup to completely overpower the Highlanders and leave them anchored to the bottom of the table.
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEDT)
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Live stream: Stan Sport
Betting: Crusaders $1.10, Highlanders $7 (odds via PlayUp)
1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Michael Alaalatoa, 4. Scott Barrett, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Ethan Blackadderl, 7. Sione Havili Talitui, 8. Cullen Grace, 9. Mitchell Drummond, 10. Richie Mo’ungat, 11. Leicester Fainga’anuku, 12. Davd Havili, 13. Jack Goodhue, 14. George Bridge, 15. Will Jordan
Bench: 16. Brodie McAlister, 17. George Bower, 18. Oliver Jager, 19. Mitchell Dunshea, 20. Whetukamokamo Douglas, 21. Bryn Hall, 22. Fergus Burke, 23. Sevu Reece
1. Ethan De Groot, 2. Ash Dixon, 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. Freedom Vahaakolo, 15. Connor Garden-Bachop
Bench: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Ayden Johnstone, 18. Josh Hohneck, 19. Josh Dickson, 20. Hugh Renton, 21. Aaron Smith, 22. Caleb Makene, 23. James Lentjes