Multiple events across New Zealand have been cancelled in the wake of the attack, which has claimed the lives of 49 people and injured more than 40, but a New Zealand Rugby spokesperson has told Stuff that the game was still “planned to proceed”.
There had been murmurs of postponing or cancelling the fixture as New Zealand still comes to terms with the deadliest mass shooting in its history.
Plans have been put in place to pay tribute to the victims of the mosque attacks prior to kick-off, and after the Chiefs and Hurricanes embraced at halfway before their match in Hamilton on Friday, the Highlanders and Crusaders are expected to do something similar.
There will also be a minute’s silence before the game.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders will have all been deeply affected by Friday’s events, while the Highlanders have strong ties to the Garden City.
Head coach Aaron Mauger and assistant coach Mark Hammett both spent the majority of their playing days with the Crusaders and Canterbury, and defence coach Glenn Delaney is a former Canterbury coach.
Co-captain Luke Whitelock, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi and Josh McKay all ply their trade for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup, while Rob Thompson made his name for the province before switching to Manawatu last year.
Others, such Elliot Dixon, James Lentjes and Marty Banks, were born and/or schooled in the city.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read, who is sitting out of Saturday’s clash, was caught up in Friday’s attacks.
The 33-year-old No. 8 was kept in a school hall as he waited to pick up his daughters, Elle and Eden, to be released from lockdown at around 4:30pm.
“Sending my thoughts to all victims today,” he posted on his Instagram story.
“Locked in the school hall waiting for the girls.”
He was one of many figures within the rugby fraternity to pay tribute to the victims, with All Blacks star and devout Muslim Sonny Bill Williams posting an emotional video on social media.
More than 20,000 are expected to flock to Forsyth Barr Stadium for the Highlanders v Crusaders clash.
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