The Crusaders will look to continue their perfect start to the 2019 Super Rugby season when they face the Highlanders in a Round 5 match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday, 16 March, kick-off at 08h35 CAT.
The defending champions made it four wins from as many matches this season when they crushed the Chiefs 57-28 in Christchurch last weekend. The emphatic triumph followed in the wake of victories over the Blues, Hurricanes and Reds, with the Canterbury team sitting proudly at the top of the overall log.
The destruction of the Chiefs also saw the Crusaders rack up a bonus point (their first of the season), as they begin to add a greater ruthlessness to their play.
“I think we set ourselves up to play like that tonight,” said captain Ryan Crotty after the match. “We were a bit more ruthless tonight. We put it right out of touch. Still disappointing to let them get a couple of dots right at the end, but that’s the bar we set for ourselves.”
The Highlanders have had a mixed start to the 2019 campaign which sees them placed sixth on the overall log and third in the New Zealand Conference. They started strongly with wins over the Chiefs and Reds, but the last two weekends have brought defeats away to the Rebels and Hurricanes.
In the latter loss, coach Aaron Mauger was disappointed with his side’s inability to dictate the play: “I thought we could have controlled the ball a little bit more and wound down the clock and kicked it off and you go into the shed up at half-time and it’s a different game,” he explained.
“It was really tricky down that left-hand corner, that’s why we tried to play a bit of footy down there, and force TJ [Perenara] to hook around and over with his left foot. That was a plan we discussed at half-time. We found it hard to get out so that’s why we pinned them down there.”
The ‘Saders have dominated the Highlanders in recent times, winning four of the last five meetings of the teams. That includes a 45-22 triumph in Christchurch in July 2018 (the teams’ most recent meeting) in which Richie Mo’unga kicked 20 points and George Bridge had a brace of tries.
Highlanders v Crusaders – Last five results
6 July 2018 – Crusaders 45-22 Highlanders
17 March 2018 – Highlanders 25-17 Crusaders
22 July 2017 – Crusaders 17-0 Highlanders
3 June 2017 – Crusaders 25-22 Highlanders
4 March 2017 – Highlanders 27-30 Crusaders