Super Rugby: Highlanders v Crusaders preview
Last Updated: 22/05/14 9:24am
Crusaders can consolidate their place in the Super Rugby play-offs and overtake the fifth-placed Highlanders when the pair meet in Dunedin on Saturday.
Last year's semi-finalists travel to Forsyth Barr just two points behind Jamie Joseph's Highlanders and could move as high as second should the Waratahs and Brumbies slip on Friday.
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Todd Blackadder will be eager to see his side bounce back after a 30-25 defeat to the league-leading Sharks in the previous round ended a five-match winning streak for the Crusaders.
Similar form - five wins from their last six outings - has seen the Highlanders climb into play-off contention, while they have lost just once in six home fixtures this term.
Saturday's showdown will be the first meeting between the sides this season and the Highlanders will be looking to make amends after losing home and away to the Crusaders last term.
Highlanders fly-half Lima Sopoaga has been included in coach Joseph's starting XV for the visit of the Crusaders.
Sopoaga returns after spending two weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury and replaces Hayden Parker, who drops down to the bench.
Left wing Patrick Osborne is also back in the run-on side after recovering from an ankle injury, and centre Malakai Fekitoa has been cleared to play after spending the week at an All Blacks training camp in a moon boot.
Meanwhile, Crusaders boss Blackadder has made six changes to the side which lost to the Sharks last weekend.
In the forwards, the All Blacks front row of Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn and Owen Franks move to the bench with Tim Perry, Ben Funnell and Nepo Laulala taking their spots in the run-on side.
In the backs, Andy Ellis will start at scrum-half this weekend and Israel Dagg returns to full-back, which sees Tom Taylor move to centre.
Adam Whitelock has returned from Glasgow where he made his NZ Sevens debut and will be ready to provide some impact off the bench for the Crusaders on Saturday.
Highlanders: 15 B Smith, 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Treeby, 11 Osborne, 10 Sopoaga, 9 A Smith; 1 Hames, 2 Robinson, 3 King, 4 Hoeata, 5 Wheeler, 6 Dixon, 7 Christie, 8 Manu
Replacements: 16 Anderson-Heather, 17 Diaz, 18 Fia, 19 Franklin, 20 Evans, 21 Tanaka, 22 Parker, 23 Burleigh
Crusaders: 15 Dagg, 14 McNicholl, 13 Taylor, 12 Crotty, 11 Nadolo, 10 Slade, 9 Ellis; 1 Perry, 2 Funnell, 3 Laulala, 4 Bird, 5 S Whitelock, 6 Taufua, 7 McCaw, 8 L Whitelock
Replacements: 16 Flynn, 17 Crockett, 18 Franks, 19 Tupou, 20 G Whitelock, 21 Heinz, 22 A Whitelock, 23 Tuitavake
You can watch the Highlanders take on the Crusaders live on Sky Sports 2HD from 6:35am on Saturday
Fri 29th May - Overall Group
Crusaders35 - 18Hurricanes
Brumbies22 - 16Bulls
Sharks25 - 21Melbourne Rebels
Sat 30th May - Overall Group
Highlanders0 - 0Chiefs
Western Force0 - 0Reds
Stormers0 - 0Cheetahs
Lions0 - 0Waratahs
Fri 5th Jun - Overall Group
Hurricanes0 - 0Highlanders
Western Force0 - 0Brumbies
Sat 6th Jun - Overall Group
Melbourne Rebels0 - 0Bulls
Blues0 - 0Crusaders
Reds0 - 0Chiefs
Cheetahs0 - 0Waratahs
Stormers0 - 0Lions
Fri 12th Jun - Overall Group
Blues0 - 0Highlanders
Melbourne Rebels0 - 0Western Force
Sat 13th Jun - Overall Group
Brumbies0 - 0Crusaders
Chiefs0 - 0Hurricanes
Waratahs0 - 0Reds
Bulls0 - 0Cheetahs
Sharks0 - 0Stormers
Super Rugby 2014 Round 16
A last-second drop-goal from Jaco Taute helped the Stormers to a 21-19 win over the table-topping Sharks in Durban.
The Bulls' play-off hopes took a knock when they suffered a 32-21 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Waratahs won their fourth straight Super Rugby match with a 33-17 victory over the champions, Waikato Chiefs.