The 2015 Highlanders will hope Ben Smith and co can again upset a New Zealand rival as they face a star-studded 2005 Crusaders side in Game 8 of the Greatest Super Rugby Team tournament.
The interactive tournament puts readers at the match controls to decide which of Super Rugby’s most prolific contenders was the greatest in the history of the southern-hemisphere competition.
Game 8 pits Jamie Joseph’s 2015 Highlanders against a 2005 Crusaders side that was the first in a run of two consecutive titles. YOUR VOTE in the POLL below will decide who advances to the next round of the competition.
Joseph’s Highlanders won five of their final six fixtures in the 2015 season to finish second in the New Zealand conference, ahead of both the Crusaders and Chiefs, and fourth overall. This had them hosting a qualifier against the Chiefs, which they won 24-14 before they travelled to Sydney to beat the Waratahs in the semi-finals.
That set up a final meeting against the Hurricanes in Wellington. Two years after finishing 13th, the Highlanders became only the third team to win a Super Rugby final on the road. Led by co-captains Ben Smith and Nasi Manu, the Highanders were headed up by flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, who finished the season as the top points-scorer with 191, while wing Waisake Naholo scored 13 tries.
Meanwhile, the 2005 Crusaders, coached by Robbie Deans, won nine of their 11 games to finish top of the Super 12 table. A star-studded lineup contained the likes of Rico Gear, who scored 15 tries that season to finish as the top try-scorer, while flyhalf Dan Carter was at the top of his game, scoring 171 points. A pack with the likes of Richie McCaw, Chris Jack and Corey Flynn was also very tough to play against.
Will the Highlanders be able to provide another upset against a New Zealand rival? SUBMIT YOUR VOTE IN THE POLL BELOW!
2015 Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Honeck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Emmonds.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Shane Christie, 22 Fumiaki Tanaka, 23 Marty Banks.
Coach: Jamie Joseph
2005 Crusaders – 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Caleb Ralph, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Dave Hewett.
Subs: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Campbell Johnstone, 18 Sam Broomhall, 19 Johnny Leo’o, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Andrew Mehrtens, 22 Casey Laulala.
Coach: Robbie Deans