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Super Rugby Preview: Crusaders v Highlanders

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Thursday, April 11, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Crusaders v Highlanders, 7:35pm Friday 12 April,  Christchurch Stadium. TICKETS. 

Played: 35
Won: Crusaders 23, Highlanders 11, Draw 1
Last time: Game cancelled on 16 March because of the Christchurch terrorist attack, before that Crusaders won 45-22 (6 July 2018)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe

FORM
The Highlanders are searching for their first win since Round 2, while the Crusaders are six points clear at the top of the Super Rugby standings (both overall and the New Zealand conference). It’s going to be a huge occasion for the Highlanders who will be determined to get the W for their inspirational leader Ben Smith in his 150th match for the southern franchise. The Crusaders are coming off a convincing 36-14 win over the Brumbies at home last week, however injuries have resulted in seven changes to their lineup on Friday. The Highlanders had a thrilling battle with the Hurricanes last weekend, narrowly going down 31-28. So, they’ll be desperate to build on a better performance in the southern derby this week. 

SMITH’S 150
Ben Smith made his Highlanders debut back in 2009 and made his All Blacks debut later that year. He’s scored 190 points for the Highlanders over the last decade and in his last four away games against the Crusaders, he’s crossed for two tries and provided one try assist. In recent weeks, Smith has been at his best against the Blues and Hurricanes, so expect him to fire in his milestone match. 

CRUSADERS INJURIES
Prop Owen Franks, wing George Bridge and hooker Codie Taylor will all miss Friday’s local derby through injury. Taylor’s calf injury is not yet 100 percent, while Franks will have a scan on his shoulder. Bridge is still battling a leg niggle and coach Scott Robertson doesn’t want to risk him when they still have quality players like Sevu Reece and Will Jordan to call upon. However, they do welcome back All Blacks Sam Whitelock and Jack Goodhue, with Whitelock to captain the side. 
THE FACT (Opta)
Each of the Highlanders last eight completed Super Rugby games have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer; however, they haven’t won since Round 2.

THE SCOOP
The Highlanders haven’t beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch since 11 April 2015, almost four years to the day. The Highlanders won that encounter 25-20. But the Crusaders are formidable when they are at home, having not lost a game in front of their home fans since Round 17 in 2016.

TEAMS
Crusaders: 15: David Havili 14: Braydon Ennor 13: Jack Goodhue 12: Ryan Crotty (VC) 11: Sevu Reece 10: Richie Mo’unga 9: Bryn Hall 8: Kieran Read 7: Matt Todd (VC) 6: Whetukamokamo Douglas 5: Sam Whitelock (C) 4: Scott Barrett 3: Michael Alaalatoa 2: Andrew Makalio 1: Joe Moody
Reserves: 16: Ben Funnell 17: Harry Allan 18: Oliver Jager 19: Quinten Strange 20: Jordan Taufua 21: Mitchell Drummond 22: Mitchell Hunt 23: Will Jordan

Highlanders: 15: Ben Smith (C) 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
Reserves: 16: Ash Dixon 17: Ayden Johnstone 18: Siate Tokolahi 19: Josh Dickson 20: Jackson Hemopo 21: Folau Fakatava 22: Bryn Gatland 23: Patelesio Tomkinson