This weekend holds great importance to both countries and will be proudly acknowledged when the Highlanders take on the Brumbies at 2pm (4pm NZT) on Sunday 24th April on the final day of the inaugural Super Round.
The Super Round will see ten teams gathering in Melbourne for one giant weekend of Super Rugby (the Moana Pasifika v Force game has been postponed due to COVID19). The Highlanders will play on day three (Sunday) of the Super weekend with the opening round on Friday night against the Chiefs and the Waratahs.
The game will no doubt be another tough battle, with the Brumbies having won seven out of their eight games this season. They are sitting top of the Australian conference and are second overall behind the Blues.
Highlander’s Head Coach, Tony Brown, is aware of the challenge the Brumbies present.
“As we enter the Australian leg of the competition, we start with one of the best performed Australian teams. Clearly, we want to take that next step we have been searching for over the last few weeks, but we understand the size of the challenge the Brumbies present”
“They are one of the front runners in the competition and we will need to take all the opportunities we create in Melbourne if we are to be successful.”
“We don’t get to play many daytime games these days so we are looking forward to that experience, it should be an awesome weekend of footy”.
There are few changes to the team which narrowly lost to the Hurricanes last weekend in Dunedin. James Lentjes will captain the side with Aaron Smith being unavailable this weekend. Folau Fakatava starts at halfback and Kayne Hammington comes into the playing 23 for the first time this season. Mosese Dawai also returns to the left wing.
There are two players set to make their Highlanders debuts in Melbourne this weekend. Sam Caird will start in the number 5 jersey. Sam joins the club with a few years of Super Rugby experience under his belt, including playing for the Waratahs in 2021. Christian Lio-Willie has been named on the bench and should he take the field, this will be his first Super Rugby and Highlanders appearance.
It is Josh Hohneck’s 50th game for the Highlanders this weekend. Josh has had much success in his Super Rugby career since starting it in 2012. This has included winning three titles, one of which was with the Highlanders in 2015. He spent the years following the 2015 title win overseas before returning to the Highlanders last season.
“Josh has been a good Super Rugby player for a long time, we are delighted that he gets to bring up his 50-game milestone for the Highlanders. Even at this stage of his career he still wants to deliver a performance whenever he runs out in a Highlanders jersey.”
This will be the start of a three-week tour for the Highlanders who will travel to Suva, Fiji and then back to Brisbane in the two weeks following the Super Round in Melbourne.
Highlanders v Brumbies – 2.00pm (4.00pm NZT) Sunday 24th April, AAMI Park, Melbourne
1 Ethan de Groot
2 Liam Coltman
3 Jermaine Ainsley
4 Bryn Evans
5 Sam Caird*
6 Hugh Renton
7 James Lentjes (C)
8 Gareth Evans
9 Folau Fakatava
10 Marty Banks
11 Mosese Dawai
12 Fetuli Paea
13 Thomas Umaga-Jensen
14 Freedom Vahaakolo
15 Mitch Hunt
Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Hohneck, Max Hicks, Billy Harmon, Kayne Hammington, Sam Gilbert, Christian Lio-Willie *
* Highlanders Debut