Crusaders skipper to miss Highlanders match

Scott Barrett will miss Friday's southern derby due to his knee. Photo: Getty Images
Scott Barrett will miss Friday's southern derby due to his knee. Photo: Getty Images
The Crusaders will be without captain Scott Barrett for Friday night’s home southern derby against the Highlanders.

Barrett sustained a knock to the knee in the Crusaders' 25-8 win over the Blues at Eden Park last week, resulting in damage to his medial ligament.

Coach Scott Robertson says Barrett could have played if it was a final. However, he has made the decision to give Barrett two weeks to get right with the Crusaders having a bye following the Highlanders clash.

His absence means fullback David Havili will captain the side. A reshuffle in the forwards sees the experienced Luke Romano paired with Mitchell Dunshea. Lock/loose forward Cullen Grace - who starts at No 6 - and Ethan Roots on the bench will provide cover at lock.

“The young fellows that have come in have stood up. We’re looking forward to a debut for Ethan Roots. He’s young, he’s tough and training really well,” said Robertson.

Roots is the latest debutant to get an early-season call-up. Last week Timaru youngster Grace was impressive in his first full 80min performance against the Blues. “It’s obviously pretty intense and a step up from what I’ve been playing, but I’m really enjoying the challenge,” said Grace.

The only other change to the forwards sees Michael Alaalatoa start at tighthead prop and Isi Tuungafasi comes onto the bench due to Oliver Jager being unavailable after sustaining a head knock against the Blues.

The only change in the backs sees Leicester Faingaanuku replace Will Jordan on the bench. Meanwhile, Robertson says, depending on how this week’s training goes, Richie Mo’unga could be considered for a return to kicking duties over Havili.

The Crusaders and Highlanders have produced some of the best Super Rugby matches in recent history and there’s no indication Friday's game should be any different.

Scott Robertson. Photo: Getty Images
Scott Robertson. Photo: Getty Images
The Highlanders struggled in their opening match against the Sharks, but battled back for an impressive last-ditch win over the Brumbies in Canberra at the weekend.

“We’ve had some great battles. We’re expecting all that again,” said Robertson.

“They bounced back really well with their performance against the Brumbies, who are so tough to beat over there. They stayed in the fight, they were committed and they probably had that belief in them that came out right in the end to get a result. They’ll be buoyant after that,” said Robertson.

The southern derby will also be an extra-special occasion with Crusaders players from the past 25 years assembling for a post-match celebration where they will be presented with the tohu - the team’s new logo.

Robertson anticipates a good showing from some of the team’s former players off the field. “Caleb Ralph is there, he is always entertaining and was usually last man standing. There was a few boys that used to do the Holy Grail in the day,” said Robertson.

Crusaders team to play the Highlanders:

Joe Moody 1, Codie Taylor 2, Michael Alaalatoa 3, Luke Romano 4, Mitchell Dunshea 5, Cullen Grace 6, Tom Christie 7, Tom Sanders 8, Bryn Hall 9, Richie Mo’unga 10, George Bridge 11, Jack Goodhue 12, Braydon Ennor 13, Sevu Reece 14, David Havili 15. Reserves: Andrew Makalio 16, Isi Tuungafasi 17, George Bower 18, Ethan Roots 19, Sione Havili 20, Mitchell Drummond 21, Brett Cameron 22, Leicester Faingaanuku 23.