Highlanders

Crusaders look ahead to well-earned bye after strong start to season

The Crusaders - for now - are currently top of the Super Rugby standings, after beating southern rivals the Highlanders 33-13 in Christchurch on Friday night. 

They're 3-1 this season with wins over the Waratahs, Blues and Highlanders, with their lone defeat coming against the unbeaten Chiefs a fortnight ago. 

Last year, the Crusaders had to wait until week 10 of the competition for a bye, but their first comes much earlier this season - and at a good time as well. 

Highlanders debut for Kuridrani against Crusaders

Kuridrani has been named as one of the starting wingers for the Highlanders replacing the suspended Patelesio Tomkinson.

This means the Highlanders will have Fijians playing on the wing as Jona Nareki will start once again.

Kuridrani, who is the brother of former Fiji and Crusaders superstar Nemani Nadolo, previously played Super Rugby for the Reds.

He has represented both Fijian and Australian age-grade sides and spent two seasons in Japan before suiting up for Counties Manukau in the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup.

Rusty Highlanders go down to Sharks

The South African side scored five tries to the Highlanders two.

The hosts opened the scoring with a penalty in the sixth minute of the match when first five Mitchell Hunt kicked a penalty.

However, it was all one way traffic from there.

Flanker James Venter was the first try scorer in the match (31st minute) before Springboks winger Makazole Mapimpi scored two tries in the space of four minutes before the half was up.

By half-time the Sharks led 27-3.

Highlanders give 'Highlighter' the flick

The Dunedin based super rugby franchise is dropping the jersey from its wardrobe.

Introduced in 2011 the flouro-green jersey was worn for the last time by the Highlanders in a pre-season match against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney last month.

It wasn't well received by Highlanders fans when it was introduced and was derided by opposition fans but did become synonomous with the side.

The Highlanders new alternate jersey is much more conservative bluish green.

Mo'unga shines as Crusaders storm home

With a breathtaking blend of defensive grunt and attacking inspiration, the double defending champions kept their perfect home record in playoffs intact and extended their unbeaten winning streak at Rugby League Park to 29 matches.

They will return to the venue to meet the winner of the Hurricanes and the Bulls, who play their quarter-final on Saturday.

"We knew it was going to be tough, quarter-finals are always tough," Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said.

Ben Smith returns for Highlanders

Smith will start at fullback after recovering from a hamstring strain which has kept him out for seven weeks.

He was expected to return last week against the Waratahs, but the Highlanders decided to give him extra time to recover.

The co-captain is one of just three changes to the Highlanders lineup with Sio Tomkinson replacing Tevita Li on the left wing.

Highlanders start All Black Waisake Naholo against Stormers

A week after Naholo was named to face the Lions and then withdrawn, the All Blacks wing has been handed a start against the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday (1.05am, NZ time).

Naholo goes straight back into the No 14 jersey for the crucial game against the Stormers, with the Highlanders desperate for a win to keep themselves in a playoffs spot before they have a bye week.

"Waisake has come through the week well," Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger said on Friday.

Ben Smith may have played last game for Highlanders

Smith suffered the injury in the Highlanders draw against the Chiefs in Dunedin at the weekend.

His injury raises concern in the All Black camp too with utility back Damian McKenzie already ruled out of the World Cup with a serious knee injury.

Highlanders assistant coach Glen Delaney says they're getting used to operating without key players.

"We've had guys dropping out throughout the year (through injury). We lost Aaron Smith for a bit, we had Liam (Squire) out for a bit and Waisake (Naholo's been out for a bit," said Delaney.

Highlanders hit top gear in Tokyo

Led by an outstanding performance from lock Jackson Hemopo, the visitors pack laid the platform for their side to run in eight tries in Tokyo on Friday night (NZ time).

The Highlanders forwards obliterated the Sunwolves' scrum at will, even after they had replaced their entire front row, and dominated the contact area to force errors before moving back into play-off contention in fifth place overall on 23 points.

The result also lifted the Highlanders past the Blues into third in the New Zealand conference.

Clinical Crusaders too good for Highlanders

It was the first time the two teams had met this Super Rugby season, after their March 16 match in Dunedin was cancelled following the Christchurch mosque shootings the day before.

Although the Crusaders initially looked out of sorts and trailed by three at half-time, they proved brutally efficient in the second spell in amassing five tries for a comprehensive win which extended their unbeaten run at home to 24 matches.