Super rivals set to battle in Oamaru

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The Highlanders are coming.
Three years after their last visit, the Highlanders are set to play a game in Oamaru.
The Super Rugby champions will play their southern rivals, the Crusaders, at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Thursday, June 23, taking advantage of the international window to squeeze in a “friendly” game.
It tosses up the tantalising prospect of a doubleheader _ fans can watch the Highlanders game on the Thursday, and head to Forsyth Barr Stadium on the Saturday to watch the All Blacks play Wales.
“We’re very fortunate that the Highlanders have sorted this game to be played in Oamaru,” North Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive Colin Jackson told the Oamaru Mail.
“We’re absolutely thrilled. The Highlanders obviously won the title last year and the Crusaders are full of top-class players as well.
“Our rugby community doesn’t get too many opportunities like this, so we will make the most of it.”The game would have a late afternoon kickoff, Jackson said.
There would likely be some rippa rugby played at the stadium by way of a curtain-raiser and Jackson hoped North Otago people would get behind the game.
“I’d like to see a minimum crowd of about 3000,’ he said.
“We will get out to schools and get them involved. The game will be very much geared up for kids and families.
“Then we just have to pray for a fine day.”Jackson expected the Highlanders management would do its share to promote the game in the days and weeks leading up to it.
More details are yet to come on a black-tie dinner to be held the night before the game that organisers hope will feature players from both teams.
The Highlanders’ best players, Ben Smith and Aaron Smith, are unlikely to feature, as they are likely to be on All Black duty ahead of the third test against Wales but there will still be plenty of star power on display.
Oamaru has never hosted a full Super Rugby game and is unlikely to unless its rugby ground gets a major upgrade but the Highlanders have played half a dozen pre-season games in the town. Their last game in Oamaru was against the Crusaders in 2013. The Highlanders won 38-21.