Five players to watch: Highlanders

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Pari Pari Parkinson (Lock)


Super Rugby games: 8 - Highlanders. Points: 5

Mitre 10 Cup: (Tasman) 32. Points: 5.


Without long-serving Tom Franklin and powerhouse utility Jackson Hemopo in 2020, the chance is there for Pari Pari Parkinson to step up and to build on the base he has achieved in the side.


A successful Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Tasman this year showed Parkinson in developing light as a highly-competitive and vigorous forward and if able to continue to build effectively with Josh Dickson and Jack Whetton, the Highlanders should have a competitive core to their pack, something that has been a tradition in their rugby.



Josh Ioane (First five-eighths)


All Blacks Tests: 1. Points: 8

Super Rugby games: 23 (Highlanders). Points: 116

Mitre 10 Cup games: 31 (Otago). Points: 260


The last three seasons have been notable for Josh Ioane's quick climb through the ranks. The first five-eighths made his Otago debut in 2017, his Super Rugby debut in 2018 and his Test debut in 2019. That's not bad going by anyone's reckoning. As the leading five-eighths in the Highlanders side, he needs to build on the experience he gained in international rugby during the 2020 campaign, while also knowing there will be pressure from fellow five-eighths Mitch Hunt and Bryn Gatland.


That's healthy for the Highlanders and it will be interesting to watch how Ioane can direct his side around the field. He has never been afraid to take the ball to the line while he can also be an elusive runner.



Ricky Jackson (Hooker)


Super Rugby games: 1 (Highlanders)

Mitre 10 Cup games: 4 (Otago)


The New Zealand Under-20 hooker in 2018, Jackson had a rough season in 2019. He did make his debut for the Highlanders and it was all looking good for his Mitre 10 Cup campaign, especially with Liam Coltman included in the World Cup squad.


However, Jackson took a blow to the knee in a game for his University club and five operations, and a lot of pain afterwards, he is on the road to recovery with a chance to build on the experience of the likes of Coltman and Ash Dixon to stake a claim for a place in the Highlanders' future.


Mitchell Hunt (First five-eighths)


Super Rugby games: 49 (Crusaders). Points: 149

Mitre 10 Cup games: 44 (Tasman). Points: 342


It's like poacher turned gamekeeper for Mitchell Hunt, the player whose last-minute dropped goal from 40-odd metres for the Crusaders denied the Highlanders a victory in 2017. Now Hunt, who has been back-up to Richie Mo'unga in recent Crusaders sides, is looking for more opportunities and has moved south.


He is an exciting addition to the southern side and on the back of an historic Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Tasman will offer plenty of positive competition for a place in the Highlanders side during 2020. A capable player with ball in hand or in kicking play, he looks set to provide valuable depth in the role with the Highlanders.


Connor Garden-Bachop (Outside Back)


Mitre 10 Cup: Wellington


Connor Garden-Bachop is following in the footsteps of his father Stephen who played for the Highlanders in the inaugural season of Super Rugby in 1996. Like his father, Connor is a gifted ball-runner and natural attacker.


He has Mitre 10 Cup experience with both Canterbury and Wellington and was a schoolboy star with Scots College in Wellington. A versatile player, Garden-Bachop will bolster the Highlanders outside back stocks in the absence of Waisake Naholo, Tevita Li and Ben Smith from 2019.  


Highlanders squad:


Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Ricky Jackson, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Jeff Thwaites, Ethan De Groot, Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Jack Whetton, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele Tu'u, Shannon Frizell, Sione Misiloi, Zane Kapeli, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Jesse Parete, Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava, Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Mitch Hunt, Rob Thompson, Patelesio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Scott Gregory, Ngane Punivai, Jona Nareki, Tevita Nabura, Josh McKay, Michael Collins, Chris Kuridrani, Connor Garden-Bachop.



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