Super Rugby 2020: Kirisi Kuridrani named for Highlanders debut against Crusaders

Australian Kirisi Kuridrani faces a fast lesson in Super Rugby's southern rivalry, when he makes his Highlanders debut against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.

With Sio Tomkinson suspended three weeks for a high tackle last weekend, coach Aaron Mauger has named Kuridrani as his replacement on the right wing.

"With Sio's suspension, we were looking for someone to put their hand up and come in," says Mauger. "All those wingers have trained well, but we think Kirisi is the guy to get us started and we look forward to seeing him go."

The Highlanders-Crusaders derby shouldn't catch Kuridrani completely by surprise - brother Nemani Nadolo played three seasons for the Crusaders from 2014-16, before joining Montpelier in France.

"Their record at home tells you all you need to know about how well they play in Christchurch," reflects Mauger, who played 89 games for the Crusaders from 2000-07.

"Every team that plays there knows what to expect. This week, for us, is about enjoying another opportunity to test ourselves and we are looking forward to that."

Mauger has made no changes to the forward pack that earned a last-gasp win over the Brumbies last week, but three in the backs, with Kuridrani replacing Tomkinson, Michael Collins moving from centre to fullback and Rob Thompson returning from injury to the No.13 jersey.

The Highlanders have also persevered with the Mitch Hunt-Josh Ioane inside-back combination. Three years ago, Hunt won the Halberg Awards' Favourite Sporting Moment, when he kicked an injury-time drop goal to steer the Crusaders home in the southern derby. 

"When Mitch first came into our environment, that's how he was introduced," grins Mauger.

"The players introduced each other, and Kayne Hammington got up and just showed that clip of Mitch - it was a good lauch for the boys."

Highlanders: 1-Ayden Johnstone, 2-Liam Coltman, 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Jesse Parete, 5-Josh Dickson, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-James Lentjes, 8-Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Josh Ioane, 13-Rob Thompson, 14-Kirisi Kuridrani, 15-Michael Collins

Reserves: 16-Ash Dixon, 17-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18-Conan O'Donnell, 19-Jack Whetton, 20-Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21-Kayne Hammington, 22-Teihorangi Walden, 23-Josh McKay

Join us at 7pm Friday for live updates of the Highlanders v Crusaders Super Rugby clash