High hopes for Super 15 stadium debut

Even today's Oscar-winning script writer would be hard-pressed to come up with this pot-boiler.

The Highlanders taking on the Crusaders, both sides coming off gutsy opening wins, in a Southern derby, with the home side set to make its debut in its new home, Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Super 15 may be only one week old but the game in Dunedin this Saturday is already shaping as one of the matches of the season.

The Highlanders made a fine start with a 23-19 win over the star-studded Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday night, while the Crusaders pipped the Blues 19-18 at Eden Park on Friday night.

This makes the clash between the two sides under the roof in Dunedin a tantalising prospect.

The enormity of the occasion is not lost on Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, who knows his side will have to deliver again.

"I think the guys mentally are pretty tough" he said.

"They know they have to play and deliver week in, week out.

"But it is our first game at the stadium and it is going to be a new experience not only for the Crusaders but for the Highlanders as well.

"We've only had a few trainings there but it is where we are from.

"While the players are not from Dunedin, we have given them a good understanding of what they represent. We will do what we can to win that match."

The Highlanders attracted a crowd of more than 20,000 to last year's home game against the Crusaders at Carisbrook, and will be hoping to at least match that number on Saturday night, if not put up the sold-out sign.

The southern franchise got its campaign off to the best possible start with its victory in Hamilton, scoring two converted tries in the second half to win the game.

It is the second consecutive year coach Joseph and his men have won the opening game of the season, both times away from home against another New Zealand franchise.

The Highlanders should go into the game this Saturday with some confidence after beating the Crusaders the last time the two teams met last year.

More than 13,000 tickets for the match had been sold by the end of last week.



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