Super Rugby preview: Crusaders stacked with returning All Blacks against Highlanders, Hurricanes to add more misery for Blues

All five Kiwi teams battle it out this weekend in round 18 of Super Rugby, 1 NEWS NOW's rugby expert Campbell Burnes breaks down this weekend's action.

Jordan Taufua crosses for a try that would later be overturned. Source: Photosport

Crusaders v Highlanders: Crusaders by 12

The Highlanders will be in severe trouble if they again miss 45 tackles. As it is, they will be in severe trouble anyway as the Crusaders have loaded up with 11 All Blacks in their starting XV. Three All Blacks cannot even make the 23. Then there is the return of Kieran Read after eight months away from top footy, while the venue is renamed Wyatt Crockett Stadium in hour of the astonishing 200-match milestone for the popular prop. It just doesn’t seem possible for the Highlanders to win… does it?

Liam Messam Source: Photosport

Chiefs v Brumbies: Chiefs by 15

The Brumbies tackle well but are limited with their attack (lineout drive anyone?), whereas the Chiefs tackle well and have all sorts of attacking X-factor. I like the Sam Cane v David Pocock match-up, but I am keen to see if Chiefs fullback Solomon Alaimalo has as much room to run free as he received in Suva. There is little to suggest the Brumbies will become the second Australian side to win on NZ soil in 2018.

Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes on the charge against Stephen Perofeta of the Blues. Source: Photosport

Hurricanes v Blues: Hurricanes by 19

Beauden Barrett, Brad Shields and Vaea Fifita are back for the Hurricanes. Ben Lam is the shock omission from the starting XV as Chris Boyd seeks to drag his charges out of this malaise which has stymied their momentum a fortnight out from the playoffs. Shields raises the ton while his Blues counterpart Jerome Kaino suits up for the 138th time. Of more import is that Augustine Pulu is back to help keep TJ Perenara quiet, literally and figuratively, with James Parsons on the bench. That injection of experience will not be nearly enough for the Blues.