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Match Preview: Crusaders v Highlanders

The boys are on the road in Melbourne for Super Round, the showcase second round of Super Rugby Pacific. Six games, three double headers – a lot of quality code for hungry fans.


Our Crusaders will face off against the Highlanders in the opening game of the event, 6pm AEDT (8pm NZDT) on Friday 3 March. One of the great southern derbies crosses the Tasman, and it’s all on.


It doesn’t get much better than taking on your neighbours on the big stage, and there are few bigger than AAMI Park. It’s the first time the two sides have faced each other on neutral soil after 27 years of Super Rugby. With both South Island teams coming off first round losses at home, expect tenacity.


Key Team News

Cullen Grace is still being assessed after injuring his shoulder in Round 1 versus the Chiefs, with Christian Lio-Willie taking a spot in the starting XV for the first time. Fletcher Newell is nursing some niggles in his knee and foot, so Tamaiti Williams is stepping in at No. 3.


Sam Whitelock makes his return to the side in his first game for the season, David Havili moves to second five-eighth, Jack Goodhue slots into centre and Fergus Burke rounds out the field at fullback.


Last Hit Out

The Highlanders and Crusaders have a long and treasured past as the competition’s only South Island teams. They’ve faced off 44 times at Super Rugby level, with Crusaders winning 31 and Highlanders winning 12. They’ve only drawn once.


They met slightly later in the 2022 season, with Crusaders holding on for a nailbiting 17-14 win at home in Christchurch. The red and black have won nine of the last 10 Super Rugby matches against the Highlanders.


Match Ups

Keep an eye on the No. 2 jersey, Codie Taylor (Crusaders) and Andrew Makalio (Highlanders). Makalio played 43 games for the Crusaders between 2017-2021 as his debut Super Rugby franchise. There’s a fine line between friendship and rivalry in the front row.


Ethan Blackadder and Billy Harmon face off at No. 6. After 12 appearances for the Crusaders and 60 for Canterbury, Harmon is used to plying his trade in Canterbury and will face off against current NPC teammates.


Key Info

Referee: Nic Berry

Where: AAMI Park, Melbourne

When: Kick-off 6:00pm AEDT (8:00pm NZDT), Friday 3 March