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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 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Reds|
|17:10||Lions vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th February|
|06:35||Blues vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Sharks vs Cheetahs|
|17:05||Bulls vs Stormers|
|Sunday 15th February|
|06:05||Waratahs vs Western Force|
|Friday 20th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Brumbies|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs|
|17:10||Bulls vs Hurricanes|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Reds vs Western Force|
|15:05||Stormers vs Blues|
|17:10||Sharks vs Lions|
|Friday 27th February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Reds|
|11:00||Western Force vs Hurricanes|
|17:10||Cheetahs vs Blues|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Brumbies|
|15:05||Bulls vs Sharks|
|17:10||Lions vs Stormers|
|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|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com