PREVIEW: Crusaders v Highlanders

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Highlanders, Wyatt Crockett Stadium, July 6, 7.35pm

Played: 33
Won: Crusaders 22, Highlanders 11
Last time: Crusaders 17-25 Highlanders, March 17, 2018

The Crusaders go into the game, their 15th of the season, having suffered only two losses, one of them to the Highlanders 17-25, and the other to the Hurricanes 19-29. But since their last loss they have been on a 10-game winning streak and success on Friday will assure them of home advantage through every stage of the playoffs. They have beaten the Chiefs twice (45-23h and 34-20a), the Stormers (45-28h), the Bulls (33-14h), the Lions (14-8a), the Jaguares (40-14a), the Sunwolves (33-11h), the Brumbies (21-8a), the Rebels (55-10a), the Waratahs (31-29h), the Blues (32-24a) and the Hurricanes (24-13h). The Highlanders have suffered five losses during the year and need success to maintain playoff certainty. They have beaten the Blues (41-34h and 34-16a), the Stormers (33-15h), the Crusaders (25-17h), the Brumbies (43-17h), the Bulls (29-28a), the Lions (39-27h), the Reds (18-15a) and the Hurricanes (30-14h). Their losses have been to the Hurricanes (12-29a), the Chiefs (22-27a and 22-45h), the Sharks (12-38a) and the Waratahs (12-41a).


In 23 seasons of Super Rugby Wyatt Crockett's achievement in reaching 200 games for the Crusaders, a first for any player in the competition, is probably one of the clearer representations of individual professionalism in the game. To retain a desire to contribute over such a long period, he made his debut in 2006, is a reflection of his personal drive and can be added to 73 appearances for Canterbury, 71 games for the All Blacks and six for the Junior All Blacks. After his appearance on Friday he will have 351 first-class appearances, second only to Keven Mealamu (384) and Colin Meads (361) in New Zealand rugby. That's the sort of durability his achievement represents.


While there may be a gap on the points table, statistically there is not too much between the southern rivals. The Highlanders have been one of the busiest defensive teams in the competition with a successful tackle record of 144.4 per game the best in the competition while the Crusaders are ninth on 113.1 but more significantly the successful tackle percentage rests with the Crusaders, fractionally. They are closely aligned in metres made, clean breaks and defenders beaten with the Highlanders showing great efficiency in their off-loading and turnover wins. In lineouts and scrums the sides are almost inseparable while in rucks the Crusaders have a clear advantage.


The Highlanders have scored 11 tries this season after winning a turnover, only the Chiefs, with 12, have scored more tries this way.


While the Crusaders have won nine of their last 12 games against the Highlanders, they lost their last clash 17-25, at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.


Crusaders: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Andrew Makalio, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Kieran Read, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Codie Taylor, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Quinten Strange, 20.Jordan Taufua, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Manasa Mataele.

Highlanders: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Siate Tokolahi, 4.Jackson Hemopo, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Liam Squire/Elliot Dixon, 7.James Lentjes, 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Richard Buckman, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Ben Smith (co-captain).

Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17.Aki Seiuki, 18.Tyrel Lomax, 19.Pari Pari Parkinson, 20.Shannon Frizell, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Josh Ioane, 23.Fletcher Smith.