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The Crusaders will welcome the Highlanders to Christchurch in a New Zealand derby to kick off Round 4 of Super Rugby 2020. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of what promises to be an exciting match starting from 5:05pm (AEDT).
The reigning champions will return to the place where they won the title last season as they look to build some momentum after a good win against conference rivals the Blues last week.
They are pretty settled in terms of line-up with just three changes being made by Scott Robertson – all down to injury. Will Jordan and Oli Jager are out this week but the major loss is skipper Scott Barrett, who will be given some time to recover from his knee injury with Robertson using the bye in Round 5 as a chance to give his leader a couple of rounds off.
While Barrett’s replacement Luke Romano will be a reliable workhorse, the second row will definitely be a step down compared to the usual world-class Barrett-Sam Whitelock combination. It will be interesting to see if this is an area where the Highlanders look to test the champions.
The Crusaders looked their usual controlled, dominant selves last week against the Blues and will want another solid performance against a conference rival as they look to chase down table leaders, the Chiefs.
Standing in the way is a Highlanders team who would have been very happy with their 84th-minute win over the Brumbies last week. Picking up an away win against one of the teams predicted to go deep in the competition is not to be ignored, and while the team from the deep south have lost a lot of talent since last year, they still have the ability to worry opposition.
A lot will depend upon how well the halves partnership performs for the Highlanders. Aaron Smith and Mitch Hunt need to have good games and if Hunt can leverage his four years at the Crusaders then the Highlanders will be in a better position.
The suspended Patelesio Tomkinson is replaced by Kirisi Kuridrani – brother of Nemani Nadolo and cousin of Tevita Kuridrani – and Rob Thompson is back from injury and will wear start in the centres.
Coach Aaron Mauger would love to get one over on his old club but he knows as much as the rest of us that the Crusaders are firm favourites for this one. The Highlanders will need to start fast and get ahead of the champs if they stand a chance.
Crusaders by 12.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 5:05pm (AEDT) on Friday.
Where: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
When: 5:05pm (AEDT)
TV: Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel Go
Odds: Crusaders $1.10, Highlanders $7.00
15. David Havili (c), 14. Sevu Reece, 13. Braydon Ennor, 12. Jack Goodhue, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Bryn Hall, 8. Tom Sanders, 7. Tom Christie, 6. Cullen Grace, 5. Mitchell Dunshea, 4. Luke Romano, 3. Michael Alaalatoa, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Joe Moody. Replacements: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Isi Tu’ungafasi, 18. George Bower, 19. Ethan Roots, 20. Sione Havili, 21. Michell Drummond, 22. Brett Cameron, 23. Leicester Fainga’anuku
15. Michael Collins, 14. Kirisi Kuridrani, 13. Rob Thompson, 12. Josh Ioane, 11. Jona Nareki, 10. Mitch Hunt, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7. James Lentjes (c), 6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Josh Dickson, 4. Jesse Parete, 3. Siate Tokolahi, 2. Liam Coltman, 1. Ayden Johnstone. Replacements: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Conan O’Donnell, 19. Jack Whetton, 20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Teihorangi Walden, 23. Josh McKay
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, James Doleman
TMO: Chris Hart