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Game Preview: Round 12 Crusaders vs Highlanders

The Crusaders head south to Dunedin for a match steeped in rivalry, heritage – and at this stage of the competition – pressure. 


With four weeks to go in Super Rugby Pacific 2024, our boys are looking at every game left as a chance for points to climb into finals contention. Meanwhile our South Island compatriots sit 7th but have at least four teams nipping at their heels to knock them back out of the top eight. 


Both teams will play in their 2024 heritage jerseys to mark the occasion, where a boisterous Otago crowd is expected to fill Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night. Kick off 7.05pm. 


Key team news



Codie Taylor and Tamaiti Williams are back, right when we need them. It’s crunch time. Two All Blacks – with Taylor one of the most consistent performers in the black jersey – will add not only on-field skillset but maturity and confidence for the whole group. 


Noah Hotham starts at halfback, ready to put into practice what he’s been grinding away at behind the green fence of Rugby Park in Christchurch. 


Johnny McNicholl slots back into fullback after Leigh Halfpenny picked up a calf niggle on debut last week versus the Reds. David Havili finds himself once again at first five with Chay Fihaki set to pick up the tee to slot penalties and extras. 

Last time we met 


We last played the great Southern Derby across the ditch in Melbourne – Round 2 of the 2023 competition. Super Round brought about a 52-15 win to our boys in red and black. It was Noah Hotham’s debut and we ran in seven tries to Highlanders’ two. 


The Crusaders have won nine of our last 10 matches against the Highlanders, including the last three. 


Match ups to look out for 


Ethan de Groot captains the Highlanders this week from loosehead with Billy Harmon out injured. He’ll come up against the familiar face of fellow All Black Tamaiti Williams who returns absolutely rearing to go. Both the biggest players on their respective teams. Huge collisions incoming. 



Mitch Dunshea debuted for the Crusaders back in 2016 and played until the 2023 season after which he shifted south to the Highlanders. He’ll come up against his old captain and fellow lock Scott Barrett. 


While it won’t happen at kick off, we may see the Bell brothers lock horns in the scrum. George Bell will come off the bench as replacement hooker for Codie Taylor, while his older brother Henry Bell starts at 2 for the Highlanders. 


Folau Fakatava and Noah Hotham will no doubt have shared plenty of tips and halfback tricks, with Hotham having spent time in the Highlanders camp as an U20s player. They both now start at 9 in the Forsyth Barr cauldron. 



Martín Bogado earns his second start on the left wing, the Argentine national no doubt relishing his time at the Highlanders this season. He’ll come up against none other than Sevu Reece, looking to add to his 100 first class tries. A roofed stadium makes for great conditions for running rugby – the wingers will be frothing for this one. 


Key info: 


Kick-off: 7.05pm (NZT) 

Where: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 

Referee: Angus Gardner 

Assistant Referees: Jordan Way, Matt Kellahan