Scott Barrett ruled out of southern derby against Highlanders

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett has been ruled out of tonight's game due to a back issue. Photo:...
Crusaders captain Scott Barrett has been ruled out of tonight's game due to a back issue. Photo: Getty Images
Crusaders captain Scott Barrett has been scratched from tonight's southern derby with the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The 69-test All Black lock will miss the game as a precautionary measure due to a back issue.

Barrett only lasted 13 minutes of last weekend's loss to the Reds in Christchurch, before withdrawing because of back spasms.

Jamie Hannah moves off the Crusaders bench to take Barrett's place in the second row, while Antonio Shalfoon comes onto the bench for a potential Super Rugby Pacific debut.

Codie Taylor and Tamaiti Williams make much-needed returns for the defending champions, with both All Blacks rushed straight back into the starting line-up after Taylor took a well-deserved break and Williams was injured in the first match of the season.

Barrett's absence is a big blow for the struggling Crusaders, who currently sit 10th on the Super Rugby Pacific ladder. They have not lost in Dunedin since 2018 - but if they can't get a result tonight, they will enter must-win territory in their remaining regular season fixtures.

The Highlanders come in off tough wins over the Force and Moana Pasifika to end a six-match losing run.

Highlanders v Crusaders

Kick-off: 7.05pm Saturday 11 May

Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Telea, 12 Jake Te Hiwi, 11 Martin Bogado, 10 Cameron Millar, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Nikora Broughton, 7 Sean Withy, 6 Oliver Haig, 5 Fabian Holland, 4 Mitch Dunshea, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Ethan de Groot (c)

Bench: 16 Jack Taylor, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Saula Ma'u, 19 Will Tucker, 20 Will Stodart, 21 James Arscott, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Finn Hurley.

Crusaders: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 David Havili, 9 Noah Hotham, 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Corey Kellow, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Jamie Hannah, 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tamaiti Williams

Bench: 16 George Bell, 17 George Bower, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Antonio Shalfoon, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Macca Springer.