The Crusaders were left battered and bruised on Saturday against a rousing Hurricanes outfit. It was an examination that would leave most coaches grasping for their team handbook, fortunately for Scott Robertson, the Crusaders are a team renowned for turning things around and they will be desperate to do just that.
History suggests that matches under the roof in Dunedin are high tempo, high scoring affairs and everything points to the same on Saturday. There is a sense however that if the injury-hit Crusaders try to play the Highlanders at their own game, they will soon find themselves chasing their tails. Instead, the Crusaders need to play to their strengths and turn the contest into an old-fashioned dog fight, a tactic that nearly won them the match in Wellington. They need to blunt the usual suspects of Aaron & Ben Smith and win the contest at the breakdown. If they can do those two consistently and take all opportunities on offer, then they will go close.
On a high
The Highlanders are undefeated to start the season and they will be itching to continue their early dominance on home soil. The Otago based outfit will be yearning to put things right after they lost all three derbies against the Crusaders in 2017. Winning matches against conference rivals has proven to be influential in the overall makeup of the playoffs and nothing changes in that respect.
Recently described as a pack of wolves, the Highlander forwards will be out to claw at everything in red. If they can negate a grumpy Crusaders pack and dominate key match-ups then the Highlanders should find themselves on the right side of the ledger.
Player to watch: Dillon Hunt
The rise of Dillon Hunt was one of the feel-good stories of 2017 and so far he has maintained that form throughout the early stages of 2018. You only have to look at how the new law variations at the breakdown have affected the flow of recent matches to understand how influential a player like Hunt will be. If he can win his match up with Matt Todd and snaffle the pill on more than one occasion, then Aaron Mauger’s men will feel confident of getting the job done.
My Pick: The Crusaders still have too much cattle missing for them to get over the line here. They will be in the fight until the 70-minute mark before their lack of depth in key positions will take its toll.
The Highlanders are due a win over their arch-rivals which will spurn them into a frenzy of all-out attack. I predict the Highlanders pulling away and winning this one by two scores. Highlanders by 10.
Author: Simon van Ryn
I am a sports mad fanatic who loves watching drama filled code. Growing up in Wellington I have been fortunate enough to witness some great sporting moments at the Cake Tin – non more satisfying than seeing my beloved Hurricanes finally lift that trophy after 21 years of hurt.