The Super Rugby circus will go into Round 9 which marks the halfway mark of this years tournament. It will all start with the Crusaders hosting the Highlanders in Christchurch on Friday.
Ben Smith will celebrate his 150th game against the Crusaders on Friday which is another remarkable achievement by the All Black.
He has been for so long the glue that hold this team together and his experience and brilliance will be needed against the champions.
This is going to be another cracker of a match and Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is regarding the Highlanders much better than their log position at the moment.
With the start of autumn we know that Christchurch will either be wet or dump and that will suit the home side much better.
The last time the Crusaders played in the wet against the Waratahs it did not go as planned but that was different circumstances and a different day.
Lessons have been learnt, halfback Bryn Hall insists.
“We’ve taken a lot of learnings from the Waratahs week. We were pretty disappointed with the performance we put in that week. We went bone deep with our preparation and detail around getting that right, and I think the last couple of games we’ve rectified that.”
History will show that the Highlanders last won in Christchurch since 2015.
The last time the Highlanders played in wet conditions in Christchurch was in 2017, when the city was in a state of emergency due to flooding.
Owen Franks will not be playing this Friday due to a shoulder injury.
Codie Taylor and George Bridge has also been given an extra week off.
Michael Alaalatoa and Andrew Makalio will replace Franks and Taylor in the starting side respectively.
Jack Goodhue is back for the Saders this week after enforced All Black rest last week.
Captain Whitelock will start with Scott Barrett in the second row with Whetukamokamo Douglas and wing Braydon Ennor are back after a week off. Ennor will start on the right-wing.
Aaron Mauger has been declared ready to go by his coach and will take the 10 jumper this weekend.
Mauger has not started since a month ago but with Banks out injured there was not really any other option.
Luke Whitelock will not be playing this weekend after being ruled out with a calf niggle which gives Elliot Dixon a start.
With Whitelock out, the captaincy is going to Ben Smith in his 150th game.
Pari Parkinson will start with Dickson moving to the bench. Daniel Lienert-Brown also gets a start in the No 1 jersey.
With a great performance against the Hurricanes James Lentjes will start in the No 7 jersey and Shannon Frizell gets another run at No 6.
Some Interesting Facts (By: OPTA)
- The Crusaders have won four of their last five completed Super Rugby games against the Highlanders, picking up a 45-22 triumph in their last complete encounter.
- Each of the Highlanders’ last eight completed Super Rugby games have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer; however, they’ve not won since Round 2.
- The Crusaders and Highlanders have each scored seven tries within the opening quarter of games in Super Rugby 2019, the joint-most of any teams in the competition.
- The Highlanders have conceded five tries after defending for seven or more phases this Super Rugby campaign; only the NSW Waratahs (6) have conceded more after such lengthy possession.
- The Highlanders’ Ben Smith is set to play his 150th Super Rugby game; he’s crossed for two tries and provided one try assist in his last four away games against the Crusaders.
Predictions: Expect a close first half but Saders just have too much, Saders by 16
Crusaders: David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Sevu Reece, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody.
Replacements: Ben Funnell, Harry Allan, Oliver Jager, Quinten Strange, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Will Jordan.
Highlanders: Ben Smith (captain), Matt Faddes, Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Li, Josh Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Elliot Dixon, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Tom Franklin, Pari Pari Parkinson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Jackson Hemopo, Folau Fakatava, Bryn Gatland, Sio Tomkinson