Highlanders and Crusaders face-off in mouth-watering southern derby

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The Highlanders host the Crusaders tonight in Dunedin in a mouth-watering southern derby.

The Crusaders enter the game with a record of two from two, having dispatched the Hurricanes 39-25 in week two and the Chiefs 18-13 last weekend in Christchurch.

The Highlanders lost narrowly, 24-27, away to the Blues last round, after pipping the Chiefs by a single point in a 28-27 thriller in week one.

With nothing in it, the scene is set for another humdinger between these great rivals.

The Highlanders have reorganised their front row to combat the Crusaders trio of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Michael Alaalatoa in the form of a mobile front row of Daniel Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman and Jeff Thwaites. 

“We are fortunate to have some depth in our front row so we have the ability to make changes. This is a tough competition and as always the Crusaders will present a real challenge on Saturday night,” forwards coach Clarke Dermody told Super Rugby news. 

It has been more than two years since the teams last clashed at Forsyth Barr Stadium. In that game, the Highlanders triumphed in a thrilling 25-17 performance.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made five changes to the starting side.  In the backs, Mitch Drummond starts at halfback and Leicester Faingaanuku comes in on the left wing, while Will Jordan moves to the right wing to make room for David Havili at fullback. In the forwards, Tom Christie gets a start at No. 7 and Ethan Blackadder earns a spot on the bench after injury to blindside flanker Cullen Grace.

The clash between the two titans starts at 7.05pm.

HIGHLANDERS: Daniel Lienert-Brown  Liam Coltman Jeff Thwaites, Paripari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Aaron Smith (CC), Mitch Hunt, Jona Nareki, Patelesio Tomkinson, Rob Thompson, Ngatungane Punivai, Michael Collins

Reserves: Ash Dixon (CC), Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Jack Whetton, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Kayne Hammington, Bryn Gatland, Vilimoni Koroi

CRUSADERS: Joe Moody, Codie Taylor (C), Michael Alaalatoa, Samuel Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie, Whetukamokamo Douglas (VC), Mitchell Drummond, Richie Mo'unga, Leicester Faingaanuku, Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, Will Jordan, David Havili (VC)

Reserves: Andrew Makalio, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Quinten Strange, Sione Havili, Ereatara Enari, Fetuli Paea*, Sevu Reece