Preview: Highlanders v Sharks
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 16, Highlanders 6, Sharks 10
WALKING WOUNDED: The Sharks have lost Cobus Reinach who has an ankle injury and returned to South Africa. Tian Meyer is flying to Dunedin to replace him. JP Pietersen is also expected to be available for the side but Lwazi Mvovo, who was a late call-up to the side, is suffering a hand injury and is not available for the Dunedin game.
FORM: The Highlanders' woes are well enough known but until they secure their set piece they are going to struggle. Their lineout has been put to the test while the scrum has not produced the solidity that might be expected with two cornerstone members of the All Blacks pack. What has made the Highlanders more vulnerable, especially in close contests, is the inability to retain the ball. Often that is evidence of confidence lacking. There is no doubt the side has the attacking weapons with Ben Smith and Hosea Gear notable examples but until they can get consistent ball from a solid platform up front they are going to struggle.
The Sharks have dropped the consistency they showed earlier in the competition and paid the price for getting too far behind against the Chiefs. But they showed what a force they could be when they gained some momentum. If the revamped side can show the benefit of another week of getting to know one another they should be capable of stepping up a gear in this contrest.
WE THINK: The home team face another tough climb to get out of their Super Rugby rut this year. The Sharks have a formidable pack which should be enough to keep the Highlanders out of kilter while the home team's ability to counter through their backline will be diminished as a result of the quality the Sharks can field, and which proved so potent last week in Hamilton. We pick the Sharks by 12.