Fakatava and Ioane get their shot for the Highlanders

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In two key changes from their first-round game, coach Tony Brown has named Fakatava alongside first five-eighths Josh Ioane for the game, Aaron Smith and Mitchell Hunt having been the starters in last week's loss to the Crusaders.


Brown said it was a good opportunity for Fakatava. He had a good pre-season, he did well off the bench last week and now it was his opportunity to see what he good do in the starting role while it was a chance to see what Smith could do off the bench.


"Aaron's obviously the world's best halfback but we always wanted to rotate those two guys in the first two games," he said.


Ioane had been a late starter in preparation but with two 40-minute performances behind him, it was a chance for him to start.


The Highlanders would be looking to correct the issues they had against the Crusaders, especially when getting inside the Chiefs' 22m.


Brown was expecting some changed approaches from the Chiefs under interim coach Clayton McMillan's hand.



"Clayton's a quality coach and he'll have his style of game that he wants to play but Chiefs rugby has its traditional style that they developed under Dave Rennie and which they have continued to play for the last half-dozen years. I'm picking it's going to be similar sorts of stuff," he said.


First five-eighths Josh Ioane said after having come off the bench in the side's last two outings he was looking forward to starting against the Chiefs.


Playing at first five-eighths as consistently as possible was his goal for the season while also trying to play good rugby as a result.


He wasn't prepared to look too far forward at All Black prospects.


"If I look too far ahead I don't think that will suit me so well. The first job first is to play well for the Highlanders in the 10 jersey and whatever happens after that happens," he said.


Being partnered to start with Folau Fakatava in the game, he said he was happy for him.


"When he first came into the environment everyone saw how good a player he was. I feel like everyone in New Zealand is starting to see what we saw years ago. He's definitely more confident coming into this year and I'm excited to play with him," he said.


Facing the Chiefs the Highlanders knew that having come off the bye the home side would be keen to start their season well.


"They'll be excited so we're expecting them to be on physically and playing at a fast pace.


Ioane also said having Aaron Smith sign on for another two years was good news for the side because he was such a good leader on and off the field.


"He's probably the most competitive player, person, I've met. He's very driven, he works on his craft a lot and puts a lot of time into his preparation on the field and when you combine all those things, that's what we see out on the field at weekends," he said.  



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