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Ex-All Black predicts when the Highlanders losing streak against NZ teams will end

By Ben Smith
Folau Fakatava of the Highlanders celebrates scoring a try during the Super Rugby Pacific Pre-Season Match between Crusaders and Highlanders at Methven Recreational Reserve on February 16, 2024 in Methven, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Ex-All Blacks first five-eighth and two-time Super Rugby champion Aaron Cruden can see the Highlanders ending their 17-game winless streak against rival New Zealand teams this year.

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After a disastrous 2023 season which saw the Highlanders battle to avoid the wooden spoon, they have started 2024 with two impressive performances.

Although they weren’t able to defeat the Blues in Super round, they showed they can match it with the best of the New Zealand sides with a 37-23 loss.

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The Highlanders started last season with a 60-22 defeat to the Blues and a 52-15 loss to the Crusaders, highlighting just how far they have come.

Former Chiefs playmaker Cruden believed we have seen enough from the Highlanders that showed they will beat one of the New Zealand teams.

“I can, I really can, based on the first couple of weeks,” Cruden told Sky Sport’s The Breakdown panel.

“That’s just based on effort. A lot of it is just based around the effort plays. The comrade, the connection you can actually see on the field.

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“They’ve got some star power all across the park. That guy [Folau Fakatava], I was going to highlight. I think he’s had an outstanding start to the season.

“They’ve had to make almost double the amount of tackles in the last two weeks, compared to their opposition.

“And they are over 90 per cent success rate, 93 is it, there you go. That is attitude personified right there and that’s where you can see the unity within the group.”

The Highlanders last win over a Kiwi side during the regular season was nearly three years ago, a 35-29 win over the Blues in 2021.

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Ex-All Black Stephen Bates predicted the drought would be broken against the Hurricanes, Black Fern Chelsea Semple picked the Blues but Cruden saw the Highlanders trumping their southern rivals.

“I feel like the last one they won was against the Chiefs, was it?” Cruden said.

“But I’m going to go the Crusaders probably. The battle of the south, I think they will get up for that one and potentially tip them up.”

The Highlanders were able to beat the Crusaders 41-14 in pre-season and will meet in round 12 in early May.

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