The penultimate weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa brings another classic local derby with the Highlanders travelling to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders.
The battle of the Mainland and it’s a game that could decide the tournament with the Crusaders a win away from clinching the inaugural title. That won’t be on the mind of the Highlanders though as any time the Highlanders play the Crusaders there is always plenty of motivation such is the rich history of the southern clash.
Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger has made just one change to his starting XV for the clash against the Super Rugby Aotearoa leaders with Jona Nareki coming in for Scott Gregory in the starting team. Nareki, a regular starter in the early part of the season, has made a real impact off the bench in the last two outings and been rewarded with the number 11 jersey. The rest of the starting team will get another opportunity to test themselves in what has been the toughest Super Rugby competition in recent years.
That means that there remains no room for star recruit Nehe Milner-Skudder, whose wait for a franchise debut goes on as he continues to work his way back into contact training from a troublesome shoulder injury. If the hot stepping former Hurricane is to make his Super Rugby debut during the Aotearoa competition, it would have to come against the Hurricanes next week in the Highlanders final game.
But the Highlanders fans may have to wait even longer.
Bad luck continues for Highlanders’ Nehe Milner-Skudder. Was set to play club rugby in Dunedin tomorrow but has tweaked a knee. Possible MCL damage.— Paul Cully (@paulcullystuff) August 7, 2020
“He picked up an MCL tweak the other day, so he’s back on that injury list,” Mauger told media.
On the bench, there is a six/two split with Daniel Lienert-Brown returning along with Teariki Ben-Nicholas and Ngatungane Punivai.
Head Coach, Aaron Mauger, is looking for an improved performance from his team, “I didn’t feel we did ourselves justice last week as we allowed the Blues to dominate us early and rack up some points. We were better in the back half, but it was too late. Playing the Crusaders, we know we will have to be tuned in from the very start but it’s another great opportunity for our guys to prove themselves against the competition leaders.”
Crusaders v Highlanders Line Ups
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Unavailable due to injury: Nathan Vella (concussion)
Season ending injuries: Sione Misiloi (foot), Thomas Umaga-Jensen (shoulder), James Lentjes (ankle), Conor Garden-Bachop (back), Sam Gilbert (knee), Josh Dickson (leg), Kayne Hammington (hand)