The Highlanders and Crusaders will be one of the games for this weekend in round two when they meet at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
It has been a few years since the Crusaders had a win in the opening round as they beat the Brumbies last week at home. It has been a team rebuilding with Carter and McCaw leaving after the 2015 World Cup and to add to that they also do not have yet the services of Kieran Read.
The Saders made two changes to in the forwards with hookers Taylor and Funnell rotating for this match and Matt Todd returns to get the number seven jersey from Brown who will move to the bench. In the backline they have Tamanivalu to left wing to get Dagg to move from fifteen to right wing. Havili steps in at fullback and Hunt will start at fly-half.
It was noway near a perfect performance last week from the Saders but it was a win which will give them confidence to take on the Highlanders.
The Highlanders will start the game with a new capatain in Dixon with Ben Smith sidelined this week. Dixon has played 64 games for the Highlanders making his debut in 2012.
“Elliot is an experienced campaigner who always gives 100 percent and will lead the team by example, I know he’s pretty excited about the opportunity to skipper the side,” said head coach Tony Brown.
In other changes to the team Buckman will replace Smith at fifteen and Wheeler will make his first appearance for the 2017 season from the bench. Siosuia Halanukonuka will start at tighthead with Siate Tokolahi moving to the bench and Patrick Osborne takes Matt Faddes’ place in the 23.
This will be a very hard game for both teams so early in the season and we can expect some great fireworks.
Prediction: One tend to go with the home side in these close games and I will give this one for the Highlanders by 5
Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Adrian Smith, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Patrick Osborne
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