Whitelock out of Highlanders' game

Getty Images

Friday, March 16, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Having appeared to come through his concussion protocols earlier in the week, Whitelock developed some minor post-concussion symptoms late on Thursday which prevented him completing the return-to-play process. He will continue the process under medical guidance.

Luke Romano has taken his place and Quinten Strange has moved onto the bench.

Flanker Matt Todd will captain the side with Tim Bateman vice-captain.

Back-up five-eighths Mike Delany injured his knee at training on Thursday and has also withdrawn. Brett Cameron has taken his place on the bench.

Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon is expecting the Crusaders to be 'pretty fired up' after last week's loss and they would have ironed out the issues they had against the Hurricanes.

"I'm looking forward to it, it is a big challenge for us but one you have got to get excited about," he said.

"We've got to really nail our set-piece and make sure we get some good front foot ball and hopefully from there we can score some really good tries," he said.

The Highlanders processes were going to be put under pressure against a good defensive side.

"We've done our homework this week and we think we've got a good plan so we'll give it a crack and see how it goes," he said.

While the team had some players with long term injuries they were not as badly off as other teams and he felt it was good to have a near full squad to choose from. Injuries would happen at some stage of the season but the Highlanders had full faith with whoever was called in to do jobs.

"There will be big moments in the game that you've got to nail, and if you can nail those and you're there or thereabouts by the end of it, it gets pretty interesting and if you get that by the end of it, it will be a pretty good game, an awesome spectacle," he said.