Preview: Highlanders v Blues
An extra edge is given to the Highlanders-Blues clash in Dunedin on Saturday with the teams playing their twice-yearly match for the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy.
LAST TIME: Highlanders 18 lost to Blues 29, Round 8, 2013 at Eden Park
WALKING WOUNDED: Normally the loss of All Blacks loosehead prop Tony Woodcock might be seen as a blow but with Jamie Mackintosh to call on the Highlanders are not short in that department at all. However, the loss of tighthead Chris King with a ruptured pectoral muscle will be a concern and the loss of loose cover in Tim Boys is also a blow. The sideline's backline has taken a hit with a shoulder injury possibly ending Phil Burleigh's season.
The Blues are relatively injury free, their only concern surrounding flanker Luke Braid who had a groin strain. Anthony Boric makes a rare start as well for the side.
FORM: Since achieving their only win of the season against the Sharks, the Highlanders return to home base with losses against the Force (18-19), the Bulls (18-35) and the Kings (27-34). It could not be much worse for the side which is at least able to target the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy aspect of the game. The Blues are still in with a chance of making the play-offs, but they need to keep winning, and after the disappointment of their first half against the Brumbies they have every incentive to lift their game. There is still plenty riding on it for them.
WE THINK: Southern folk value an Auckland-based scalp almost as much as they cherish wins over their neighbours in Canterbury. They will come out looking to be competitive in this contest and they can be assured of looking to take it to the Blues. However, the Blues are aware of that and if their defence stands up to the test, they should take this game to add to their early round victory at home. We pick the Blues by 8.