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Super Rugby preview: Crusaders host Western Force in Christchurch
- Highlanders v Crusaders: Teams
- Reds v Highlanders: Teams
- Chiefs v Waratahs: Teams
- Brumbies v Rebels: Teams
- Sharks v Stormers: Teams
- Lions v Bulls: Teams
- Blues v Hurricanes: Teams
- Bulls brush Brumbies aside
- Waratahs upset champions
- Lions stun Bulls in Jo'burg
- Taute drop-goal sinks Sharks
Western Force travel to Christchurch on Friday in a bid to overtake the Crusaders as Round 16 of the 2014 Super Rugby season gets underway.
The Crusaders are in pole position in the New Zealand Conference and third overall after securing a thrilling victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend, while the Force are in fourth place on the overall table and second in the Australian Conference.
There is just a solitary point between the sides and Friday's winner will move above the Waratahs into second, with the Australian franchise playing the Chiefs the following day.
With the competition taking a break - for the upcoming Test window period during June - both sides will be determined to consolidate their positions in the play-off places as defeat could see them dropping out of the play-off positions.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was handed a major boost during the week with news thatcurrent IRB International Player of the Year Kieran Read will be fit to captain the side.
Read has been out of action since sustaining an injury in Round 10 against defending champions Chiefs and with the All Blacks squad set to be announced on Sunday, he will be keen to hit the ground running.
"We are up against another very tough team this week and this win is so important for both of us," said Blackadder.
"So we need to make the most of every advantage we've got, and the home crowd is one of the big ones."
Force coach Michael Foley is also aided by the returns of No 8 Brynard Stander and ultility back Patrick Dellit for Friday's trip to the AMI Stadium.
Stander earns his first opportunity in the run-on side after 10 dynamic performances off the bench in 2014.
The 24-year-old will start at blindside flanker, while Angus Cottrell shifts to No 8, replacing Wallabies back-rower Ben McCalman, who will miss the match due to a groin strain.
Dellit returns to the starting line-up and takes the No 13 jersey for the first time since playing the Force at home in 2012 in a new-look centre pairing with Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
"Our recent block of matches has been a great challenge for the boys - starting with three strong South African sides and now facing the Crusaders in Christchurch," said Foley.
"The Crusaders are a benchmark side and our ability to lift for one big effort ahead of the Test window will be crucial to performing well."
Crusaders: 15 Dagg, 14 McNicholl, 13 Taylor, 12 Crotty, 11 Nadolo, 10 Slade, 9 Ellis; 1 Perry, 2 Funnell, 3 Laulala, 4 Bird, 5 S Whitelock, 6 Taufua, 7 McCaw, 8 Read (capt).
Replacements: 16 Flynn, 17 Crockett, 18 Franks, 19 Tupou, 20 L Whitelock, 21 Heinz, 22 A Whitelock, 23 Tuitavake
Western Force: 15 Hayward, 14 Haylett-Petty, 13 Dellit, 12 Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Cummins, 10 Ebersohn, 9 Prior; 1 Cowan, 2 Charles, Longbottom, 4 Wykes 5 Steenkamp, 6 Stander, Hodgson (capt), 8 Cottrell.
Replacements: 16 Tessmann, 17 Van Wyk, 18 Hoskins, 19 Coleman, 20 Hodson, 21 Turner, 22 Holmes, 23 Leyds
You can watch Crusaders v Western Force live from 8:30am on Sky Sports 2HD
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|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Bulls|
|17:10||Stormers vs Sharks|
|Friday 13th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Blues|
|11:00||Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Waratahs|
|08:40||Reds vs Brumbies|
|13:00||Stormers vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Sharks|
|Friday 20th March|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Hurricanes|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|15:05||Bulls vs Western Force|
|17:10||Sharks vs Chiefs|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|05:05||Waratahs vs Brumbies|
|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
|Highlanders 20 - 13 Reds|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Sharks 29 - 12 Lions|
|Stormers 27 - 16 Blues|
|Reds 18 - 6 Western Force|
|Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders|
|Friday 20th February|
|Bulls 13 - 17 Hurricanes|
|Melbourne Rebels 28 - 38 Waratahs|
|Chiefs 19 - 17 Brumbies|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Waratahs 13 - 25 Western Force|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Bulls 17 - 29 Stormers|
|Sharks 29 - 35 Cheetahs|
|Blues 18 - 23 Chiefs|
|Friday 13th February|
|Lions 8 - 22 Hurricanes|
|Brumbies 47 - 3 Reds|
|Crusaders 10 - 20 Melbourne Rebels|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com