Despite escaping what would have been a rare blip, the Crusaders are favourites to run out winners in the “Battle of the South” against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday night.
The Crusaders are unbeaten in Super Rugby Aotearoa so far, but it’s not been all smooth sailing. Their two games have had contrasting victories. They were in vintage form against the Hurricanes in round two with a bonus point 39-25 win in Wellington.
The conditions weren’t on their side in round three as they held on for an 18-13 win over the Chiefs in the Christchurch wet. The Highlanders opened their campaign with a last gasp win over the Chiefs before falling short against the Blues at Eden Park last week.
Last time out
It has been more than two years since these teams last met under the Dunedin roof. The Highlanders came out top that time in a pulsating 25-17 win.
Super Rugby NZ teams: Highlanders vs Crusaders
Highlanders: 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown 2. Liam Coltman 3. Jeff Thwaites 4. Paripari Parkinson 5. Josh Dickson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Dillon Hunt 8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u 9. Aaron Smith (CC) 10. Mitch Hunt
11. Jona Nareki 12. Patelesio Tomkinson 13. Rob Thompson 4. Ngatungane Punivai 15. Michael Collins
16. Ash Dixon (CC) 17. Ayden Johnstone 18. Siate Tokolahi 19. Jack Whetton 20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas 21. Kayne Hammington 22. Bryn Gatland 23. Vilimoni Koroi
Crusaders: 1. Joe Moody 2. Codie Taylor (C) 3. Michael Alaalatoa 4. Samuel Whitelock 5. Mitchell Dunshea 6. Ethan Blackadder 7. Tom Christie 8. Whetukamokamo Douglas (VC) 9. Mitchell Drummond 10. Richie Mo’unga 11. Leicester Faingaanuku 12. Jack Goodhue 13. Braydon Ennor
14. Will Jordan 15. David Havili (VC)
Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio 17. George Bower 18. Oliver Jager 19. Quinten Strange 20. Sione Havili 21. Ereatara Enari 22. Fetuli Paea* 23. Sevu Reece
Super Rugby NZ Round 4 predictions: Highlanders vs Crusaders – H2H
Head-to-head, though, the hosts have a woeful record against the Crusaders – having won just 11 of their 38 meetings overall. The cancelled match between the two sides was recorded as a 0-0 draw in the history books.
In terms of points scored when these two sides meet, the Crusaders average 29 and the Highlanders 20, with a 3-2 try-scoring average in favour of the Crusaders.