Super Rugby: Crusaders vs Highlanders Preview
We are more than half way through the tournament with only 7 rounds left to go until the qualifiers. We can look forward to some mouthwatering match-ups in round 9. The Highlanders travel to Christchurch to try and tame the prolific Crusaders. This New Zealand derby is traditionally very physical and skillful because of the fact that players are trying to stake their claim on an All Black jersey for the Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup at the end of 2019.
The Crusaders came out on top at home in July 2018, however the Highlanders got the victory earlier in this year in Otago. The Crusaders have been in exceptional form this year especially out wide. Sevu Reece has been a scoring machine the last couple of rounds. The return of the All Black midfielder, Jack Goodhue, will definitely boost the attacking ability of the Crusaders' backline.
On the Highlanders side, they have opted for experience especially in the back field with Ben Smith starting alongside Matt Faddes and Tevita Li. Smith has the vision of a hawk from the full back position and makes the majority of the attacking en defensive decisions in the Highlanders backline. We often refer to the cliché that the side that gets the upper hand upfront will be victorious at the end of the game and this clash will be no different.
The Crusaders have a lot of experience upfront with their captain, Sam Whitelock, starting in the second row alongside, Scott Barrett. The recent return of Kieran Read will also boost the side upfront and he might bring a calming factor to the young players when things get tough over the weekend.
My prediction: Crusaders by 7
15 David Havili, 14 Braydon Ennor, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan
15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Sio Tomkinson