As the only two South Island-based teams in Super Rugby Pacific, the Crusaders and Highlanders have a unique and special rivalry, making their matches some of the most anticipated and intense in the competition. 

Dating back to the inaugural Super Rugby season in 1996, the Crusaders and Highlanders have faced each other more than 40 times, with each side claiming its fair share of victories and memorable moments along the way. 

For the first time ever, the two great rivals will face off on neutral soil in the opening game of the Melbourne Super Round on Friday night.

Check out some of the key numbers from the history of their long-standing rivalry:

44: The Crusaders and Highlanders have played 44 Super Rugby games (not counting pre-season games) with the Crusaders winning 31, the Highlanders 12 and one draw.

48: The average amount of points scored in games between the sides is 48.

1,251: The amount of points the Crusaders have scored against the Highlanders.

867: The amount of points the Highlanders have scored against the Crusaders.

3: Just three points separated the sides when they last met in competition play. On April 1 last year, the Crusaders clung on for a hard fought 17-14 victory in Christchurch. 

43: In 2017, then Crusaders pivot Mitch Hunt created one of the most iconic moments in the southern rivalry by landing a 43 metre long drop goal on the stroke of full time to give the Crusaders a sensational 25-22 victory. The moment was named New Zealand’s favourite sporting moment of 2017 at the Halberg Awards. On Friday night in Melbourne, Hunt lines up in the number 22 jersey for the Highlanders.

2: In the Farmlands Cup pre-season game on 10 February, the Highlanders came from behind to beat the Crusaders by 2 points. The final score was 35 – 33. 

9: The Crusaders have won nine of their last 10 competition matches against the Highlanders.

173: This is the number of games that Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock has played for the side. This puts him at seventh on the overall ladder of most games played in Super Rugby. Former Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett is first with 202 games played. Aaron Smith tops the appearance list for the Highlanders with 176 (fourth overall). Sam Whitelock has been named to play in Melbourne while Smith is still a week away from returning for the Highlanders. 

23: The Crusaders and Highlanders first clashed 23 years ago on 5 May 1996. The Highlanders came out on top in Christchurch 29 – 27 with Jeff Wilson scoring two tries in the win.  

0: After one round, both teams are on 0 competition points and will be desperate to open their account in Melbourne.

The Crusaders take on the Highlanders in the opening game of the Melbourne Super Round at 8pm NZT (6pm local) on Friday 3 March. Get your tickets HERE.