After a lengthy break the Crusaders return to Super Rugby action with a Round 18 clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch on Friday.
Crusaders v Highlanders, Friday 6th July, Christchurch, KO 09:35 (South African time)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Refs: Mike Fraser, Jamie Nutbrown
TMO : Aaron Paterson
The Crusaders were the team to sit out Round 17 but it was still a good week as their nearest rivals the Hurricanes came unstuck away to the Brumbies. The Crusaders continue to top the overall standings and in terms of the New Zealand Conference they now have a 9 point lead over the Canes.
The Saders have won 12 and lost 2 of their matches so far and those 2 defeats came away from home in NZ derby matches, 29-19 at the Hurricanes in Round 4 and 25-17 in the first meeting with the Highlanders in Dunedin a week later.
Since then the Saders have reeled off 10 straight wins including a 34-20 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton on 2nd June just prior to the international break.
Sealing top spot would seem a case of when rather than if and the Crusaders still have another home game to come in the regular season when the Blues come to town next week.
The Highlanders game against the Chiefs last week was staged in Suva, Fiji and for more than half the match it looked as though only one side had pitched. The Chiefs took the Landers to pieces in going into a 42-0 lead in a fixture they had started as slight underdogs. The Highlanders did claw back some respectability in the second half but the final score of 45-22 still told a tale of Chiefs dominance.
The Highlanders had gone into the international break on the back of fine performance which saw them beat the Hurricanes 30-14 in Dunedin in Round 16. They now have an overall record of 9 wins and 5 defeats and in New Zealand derby matches this season they have won 4 and lost 3.
Outside of Dunedin they lost the first meeting with the Canes, 29-12 in Wellington in Round 6, they also lost 22-17 to the Chiefs in Hamilton a week later but in Round 10 they did beat an injury hit Blues side 34-16 in Auckland.
In the New Zealand Conference the Highlanders are now in fourth spot, 1 point behind the Chiefs and 5 behind the Hurricanes and after this they finish the regular season at home to the Rebels.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (cc), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Richard Buckman, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire/Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (cc), 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Pari Pari Parkinson, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Fletcher Smith
Recent Head to Head (any venue)
2018 Dunedin Highlanders 25-17 Crusaders (Tries 3-2)
2017 Christchurch Crusaders 17-0 Highlanders (Tries 2-0)
2017 Christchurch Crusaders 25-22 Highlanders (Tries 3-3)
2017 Dunedin Highlanders 27-30 Crusaders (Tries 3-4)
2016 Dunedin Highlanders 34-26 Crusaders (Tries 5-2)
2015 Christchurch Crusaders 20-25 Highlanders (Tries 2-3)
2015 Dunedin Highlanders 20-26 Crusaders (Tries 2-2)
2014 Christchurch Crusaders 34-8 Highlanders (Tries 4-1)
2014 Dunedin Highlanders 30-32 Crusaders (Tries 4-4)
2013 Dunedin Highlanders 12-40 Crusaders (Tries 2-4)
2013 Christchurch Crusaders 24-8 Highlanders (Tries 2-1)
Crusaders -7.5 points at 9/10 widely available
Highlanders +8.5 points at 9/10 WSB
Note, odds quoted are an average of what was available at the time of last update but are subject to change.
Chatting to my colleague Brent Graham we fancy the Saders minus here. Brent does a handicapping prediction early in the week and he had the Saders as double digit favourites. With that, and the best current minus quote in mind we rate this a 6 unit play.
Bet: 6 units Crusaders -7.5 points at 9/10 widely available
Remember you can have your own say on all this week’s matches on our discussion forum