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Dixon (29) packed down at No 8 for the Highlanders in 2017 when the side played the Force in Perth and ran out a 55-6 winner - the biggest winning margin in the Highlanders' history.
He played on the back of the scrum for the Highlanders in a match against the French Barbarians last year, but that did not count as a Super Rugby game.
Dixon comes in for Luke Whitelock, who is out with a calf injury, and will have to get through plenty of work tonight.
Dixon has started just the one game this year and all up has played just 118 minutes this season - less than a game and a half.
"I haven't played heaps of minutes but I have been just helping the boys out. I'm just enjoying moments like this - playing the Crusaders and getting out there and doing my best," he said.
"We have got some little tricks up our sleeves ... I think they are a dominant set piece team. We have to front up there with our big boys and restrict their backs, too. The old cliche really - stop their forwards and limit their backs.
"We have got a lot of confidence in our game, but have just not put it together for 80 minutes. We feel like our game is going quite well, but we just need to play for the whole game."
Dixon will play his 96th game for the franchise and is now a completely different player from the one who rolled up to the franchise as a 20-year-old from Canterbury.
He said becoming a father and getting older gave him more balance in his life. That helped when swallowing a tough loss like last weekend's against the Hurricanes.
"It can be pretty easy for me. I can just drive over the hill to Mosgiel and then I get toys thrown at me and have boys who want to play rippa rugby and tackle rugby ... that is probably a key thing for the younger boys. Just get away, get off social media, just think about something else. That is an important part of your whole wellbeing.
"It takes me about 12 hours. I will go home and watch the game at 2am and get a couple of hours sleep, then everyone will be up and it will be time to move on. What is done is done. You can't do much about it."
His future was still up in the air - whether he stays with the Highlanders or heads back to Japan. He played for Ricoh last year.