As the Highlanders head to Eden Park on Saturday night they will be reminding themselves that anything can happen in a one-off eighty-minute game of rugby. While most pundits will no doubt write off the Highlander’s chances of beating the Blues juggernaut of 2022 some part of them will know that there are very few sure things in sport.
The task of beating the Blues at Eden Park has been beyond all teams this season, their only loss being a 1-pointer to the Hurricanes in Dunedin. The Highlanders will relish the challenge and are comfortable being the underdog.
“I can’t think of a bigger challenge than this one for our team, to play the Blues at Eden Park, we are going to have to be at our very best across the park. They have been the form team all season and played some incredible rugby. The guys will all know they have to bring it on Saturday night because the Blues have turned up all season and anything less than 100% won’t be good enough,” said Brown.
“We know the mixed season we have had but in a play-off game you don’t have to be consistent for 6 months, just 80 minutes.”
The Highlanders welcome back some fresh legs in the form of All Black Shannon Frizell after a long layoff for injury, who will be looking to make a real impact off the bench with his ability to carry the ball. Scott Gregory is reinstated to the midfield, Mosese Dawai to the left wing and Connor Garden-Bachop returns at fullback.
Injuries to hookers Liam Coltman and Rhys Marshall means a potential debut for Auckland hooker, Leni Apisai, who incredibly has spent time as a replacement with four New Zealand clubs this season alone. Hugh Renton will replace James Lentjes in the loose forwards after Lentjes left the field last week with a shoulder injury.
DHL Super Rugby Pacific Quarterfinal: Blues v Highlanders – 7:05pm, Saturday 4th June, Eden Park, Auckland
1: Ethan de Groot
2: Andrew Makalio
3: Jermaine Ainsley
4: Bryn Evans
5: Josh Dickson
6: Hugh Renton
7: Billy Harmon
8: Marino Mikaele-Tu’u
9: Aaron Smith (c)
10: Marty Banks
11: Mosese Dawai
12: Scott Gregory
13: Thomas Umaga-Jensen
14: Fetuli Paea
15: Connor Garden Bachop
Reserves: Leni Apisai*, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Mau, Max Hicks, Shannon Frizell, Folau Fakatava, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Denny Solomona
* Highlanders debut