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Super Rugby: Crusaders v Highlanders match preview
The Crusaders have made one change to their line-up for the crunch clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday.
Sam Whitelock has returned to full fitness after his late withdrawal last week, so the lock goes straight back into the starting XV, with Jimmy Tupou dropping to the bench.
Although the Crusaders have already secured a place in the playoffs, they are chasing the win that would see them advance straight to the semi-finals.
The Highlanders, though, are chasing a semi-final spot of their own and Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder knows it will be a tough match.
"The Highlanders are also a gutsy side and we know that they will be putting everything they've got into this encounter,” he said.
“We are going to have to put in the performance of the season to come out on top, and that is exactly what the team has committed to doing."
The Highlanders’ hopes have not been helped by news All Black full-back Ben Smith has been ruled out.
Smith was forced to remain in a Sydney hospital following the loss to the Waratahs due to a leg infection.
Smith was released on Tuesday however he remains on medication and coach Jamie Joseph has opted against risking him.
That means Trent Renata will start at full-back as one of four changes to the side, with Liam Coltman, Chris King and Hayden Parker also coming into the starting XV.
Crusaders: 15 Dagg, 14 Fonotia, 13 Crotty, 12 Carter, 11 Nadolo, 10 Slade, 9 Ellis, 1 Crockett, 2 Funnell, 3 O Franks, 4 Bird, 5 S Whitelock, 6 Taufua, 7 Todd, 8 Read (c).
Replacements: 16 Flynn, 17 Moody, 18 Laulala, 19 Tupou, 20 L Whitelock, 21 Heinz, 22 Taylor, 23 McNicholl.
Highlanders: 15 Renata, 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Treeby, 11 Osborne, 10 Parker, 9 A Smith, 1 Hames, 2 Coltman, 3 King, 4 Franklin, 5 Wheeler, 6 Dixon, 7 Christie, 8 Manu (c).
Replacements: 16 Robinson, 17 Diaz, 18 Koen, 19 Bekhuis, 20 Evans, 21 Tanaka, 22 Sopoaga, 23 Burleigh.
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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