Lineout issues front of mind for Highlanders

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Injuries and sickness have hit the side who have yet to be able to consistently utilise one of their main assets from last season, their lineout, in 2023.

Instead of building on that base, they have been scrambling to maintain their lineout resources.

Back in the frame for the side is Josh Bekhuis, the Southland centurion who returned from overseas last year. He played 82 Super Rugby games for the Highlanders between 2009-14 and 28 games for the Blues in 2015-16 before he headed offshore to France and Japan.

Forwards coach Tom Donnelly said the constant changes forced on the side have yet to help the lineout advance.

"If you can get consistency of selection, you get better and better as you go. We've probably been in a tough situation where every week we've had an injury to a lock or a lineout leader. It's been quite hard to get a bit of rhythm."

It wasn't through lack of effort, however, as the squad has worked hard on what needed to be done.

Josh Dickson and Max Hicks are both available for Canberra. However, they are likely to face a busy few weeks through until the end of the season with news that Fabian Holland and Will Tucker are likely to struggle to play in the remaining games, with Pari Pari Parkinson also in doubt.

Tucker suffered a head knock at training last week, presented with concussion symptoms after the captain's run, and was forced to withdraw.

Parkinson suffered a viral complaint resulting in weight loss, and he could not train with the side early this week.

Holland, 20, has a hamstring injury, and Donnelly said that could take anything from four to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.

While Holland has had limited opportunities this season because of an earlier calf muscle injury, Donnelly said he had faith in his future worth to the Highlanders.

"He's a great kid, and he'll do everything he can to be on the field and do what's best for the team. But he's still a very young man, and he's still growing. He's still finding his feet.

"He's put on a lot of weight this year, but he is diligent with rehab, prehab and recovery, so there are no concerns for us.

"He's just having one of those tough runs where's he's had a few injuries and you can't find your way into form because you're always having a bit of a setback."


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