Even though the score line blew out at the end, the Highlanders stuck with the Crusaders for the majority of the game in Dunedin and with the likes of Josh Ioane and Josh McKay back in the mix, it should be another tight battle. Orangetheory Stadium is a sell out and recent history is in favour of the Crusaders who have won their last five completed Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Highlanders, each time by a margin of 20 points or more. But if the Highlanders can spoil the party, the competition will remain well and truly alive.
Match Details: Sunday 9 August, 3:35pm, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Paul Williams
Won: Crusaders 27, Highlanders 11, 1 draw
Last match: 20 Highlanders 40 Crusaders on 4 July 2020
Watch: Sky Sport 1
The scenario is simple for the Crusaders. Win and they claim the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa title. Lose and there will be everything to play for at Eden Park next weekend. They will be incredibly determined not to lose two and a row at home, but the Highlanders will be equally determined to rain on the Crusaders parade. They are coming off a pretty disappointing loss to the Blues at home last weekend, so will want to make sure they rebound strongly.
ENNOR & MOODY RETURN
The Crusaders welcome back midfielder Braydon Ennor and prop Joe Moody for the encounter on Sunday. Ennor returns from a foot injury which he suffered in the game against the Blues, while Moody is back in the starting side after missing last week with a family bereavement.
MO’UNGA v IOANE
We’re looking forward to this match-up. The two first fives haven’t faced off in Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa yet, so it’s going to be interesting to see how Josh Ioane goes against undoubtedly the best pivot in the competition. Ioane is finding his feet again after returning from a groin injury a couple of weeks ago. He enjoyed directing the Highlanders around the field at 10 last week and said playing at 12 has given him a different perspective of the game. His opposite has been in sublime form all year. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said Mo’unga is the best first five-eighth in the world right now and that’s hard to argue with. He’s literally won games for the Crusaders and has hardly put a foot wrong in the competition. It will be a tasty battle.
The Highlanders are on the hunt for back-to-back away wins for the first time since April 2018 after snatching a come-from-behind 33-31 win over the Chiefs in their last away game.
Crusaders: 1. Joe Moody 2. Codie Taylor © 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Samuel Whitelock 5. Quinten Strange 6. Tom Sanders 7. Tom Christie 8. Whetukamokamo Douglas (vc) 9. Bryn Hall 10. Richie Mo’unga 11. George Bridge 12. Jack Goodhue (vc) 13. Braydon Ennor 14. Sevu Reece 15. Will Jordan
Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio 17. George Bower 18. Oliver Jager 19. Luke Romano 20. Sione Havili 21. Mitchell Drummond 22. Brett Cameron 23. Leicester Fainga’anuku
Highlanders: 1. Ayden Johnstone 2. Ash Dixon (cc) 3. Jeff Thwaites 4. Pari Pari Parkinson 5. Jack Whetton 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Dillon Hunt 8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u 9. Aaron Smith (cc) 10. Josh Ioane 11. Jona Nareki 12. Patelesio Tomkinson 13. Michael Collins 14. Josh McKay 15. Mitch Hunt
Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown 18. Siate Tokolahi 19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit 20. Jesse Parete 21. Folau Fakatava 22. Ngatungane Punivai 23. Teariki Ben-Nicholas