Follow all the action on the RugbyPass live blog from the opening game of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season between the Highlanders and Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Keep up to date with the latest score, stats and join the conversation from anywhere in the world in our Live Match Centre (click here).
The competition that captured the world’s attention in 2020 is back and better than ever, with an additional grand final added to the schedule plus two key rule changes which could have a massive impact on the game is played.
In Friday’s opening game, the Crusaders travel south to Dunedin in the battle of the deep south. The Crusaders have held the wood over their neighbours in recent seasons, last ceding a game to the Highlanders in 2018.
While the Highlanders have made some exceptionally astute recruitment in the off-season, bringing in the likes of Liam Squire, Billy Harmon, Kazuki Himeno and Solomon Alaimalo, the Crusaders stuck largely with the squad that brought them so much success in last year’s competition, bringing in just four new players to their team for the upcoming campaign.
Scared of missing the new @SuperRugbyNZ season?
Don't be. Sign up now and watch Super Rugby Aotearoa on RugbyPass' new viewing platform at https://t.co/5eJPahGm82
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 25, 2021
Two of those newbies could earn their debuts tonight, with prop Fletcher Newell and utility back Chay Fihaki both named in the team. Newell will enter the match from the bench while Fihaki has taken Will Jordan’s spot at fullback in a late change.
There’s a settled look to the rest of the Crusaders lineup – Scott Robertson has named a hugely promising loose forward trio comprised of Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie and Cullen Grace.
There are nine All Blacks scattered throughout the team and although many of them won’t last the match, Robertson will be expecting plenty of return from the national stars.
The Highlanders, now led by Tony Brown, have injected Harmon and Alaimalo straight into the starting lineup while Squire will add some impetus off the bench.
View this post on Instagram
Mitch Hunt has won the battle to wear the No 10 jersey which means one-cap All Black Josh Ioane will ride the pine for the season opener.
Ash Dixon, who played his 100th game for the Highlanders in the last win over the Hurricanes, will lead the team out onto the park and his centurion status will be celebrated at the end of the match in front of what promises to be an epic crowd.
The match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT and will be broadcast live on RugbyPass for subscribers in a number of territories around the world, including the UK, Ireland, France and Singapore, who have purchased a Super Rugby Aotearoa pass.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now