RECAP: Crusaders v Highlanders
READERS’ FORUM: Welcome to our coverage of the Super Rugby quarter final between the Crusaders and the Highlanders at the Christchurch Stadium.
There is no place to hide. This, in a nutshell, is the opening match of the quarterfinal round.
There is also no doubt that the Highlanders are the underdogs, prompting Crusaders coach Scott Robertson to suggest the visitors could play with ‘freedom’, knowing they have nothing to lose.
The Crusaders are the toughest team to beat at home and the statistics confirm it – three years and 29 matches since they last lost in Christchurch.
There was a 21-all draw with the Sharks in May, the only glitch in an otherwise flawless home record stretching back to July 2016, when they lost 10-35 to the Hurricanes.
The Crusaders, coming off a bye, also face a Highlanders squad that just sneaked into the top eight, after coming through a mathematical embroglio.
2019: Crusaders won 43-17, Christchurch
2019: Crusaders and Highlanders drew nil-all, Dunedin
2018: Crusaders won 45-22, Christchurch
2018: Highlanders won 25-17, Dunedin
2017: Crusaders won 17-0, Christchurch (quarterfinal)
2017: Crusaders won 25-22, Christchurch
2017: Crusaders won 30-27, Dunedin
2016: Highlanders won 34-26, Dunedin
2015: Highlanders won 25-20, Christchurch
2015: Crusaders won 26-20
Prediction: The Crusaders have won five of their last six completed Super Rugby matches against the Highlanders, coming from behind at half-time to win two of those matches. The Highlanders have lost six of their last seven Super Rugby matches on the road, conceding an average of 33 points-per-game in those defeats. The Crusaders have averaged 510 metres per-game in Super Rugby 2019, the most in the competition and 78 more than the Highlanders (432). The Highlanders have conceded just seven penalties per game on average in Super Rugby this year, fewer than any other side. Aaron Smith (Highlanders) has provided 11 try assists in Super Rugby 2019, the most of any player in the finals series and the second most overall (Quade Cooper –12).
Margin: 14 points
LIVE: Crusaders v Highlanders
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Kick off time: 19.35 (NZ), 07.35 GMT and 9:35 SAST.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Dillon Hunt 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Elliot Dixon.
Date: Friday, June 21
Venue: Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)