Match details: Highlanders v Chiefs, Saturday 10 April, 7.05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Won: Highlanders 12, Chiefs 29, Drawn 1
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Last time: Highlanders 39, Chiefs 23 (5 March 2021)
BOSHIER AT 7
The biggest change for the Chiefs comes in the number seven jersey where the team has been hit hard by the loss of All Blacks captain Sam Cane to injury for the season. With the Boshier brothers (Lachlan and Kaylum) both available for selection, the Chiefs have opted to hand younger brother Kaylum his first Super Rugby start while Lachlan will return to action in Taranaki club rugby. Although it is a first Super Rugby start for 21-year-old Kaylum, he has plenty of experience alongside him in the loose forwards with Mitchell Brown playing his 50th match for the side and Luke Jacobson one of just three players in the competition to play every minute of every game so far this season.
BATTLE OF THE NINES
As far as head-to-head clashes go, they don’t get much bigger or more influential than the one in the nine jersey. Aaron Smith is arguably the world’s best halfback and a driving force behind the Highlanders success. Brad Weber holds a similar talismanic-like presence for the Chiefs and matches Smith for speed of service, tactical play and sniping running ability. So far this season the Highlanders have offered a double threat at halfback with the impressive Folau Fakatava sharing the duties with Smith. With Fakatava out for the season following an ACL injury suffered in last week’s victory over the Crusaders, Kayne Hammington comes onto the bench to offer support for Smith. The Chiefs have firepower of their own on the bench with All Blacks halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi waiting in the wings in the number 21 jersey.
The Highlanders are undefeated in their last five Super Rugby games against the Chiefs. Their 39-23 win in round two of Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa was their biggest victory against the Chiefs since May 2015.
A spot in the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa final will become even more difficult for the loser of this game as they slip to fourth place on the ladder. On the other hand, the victor will draw close to the Blues who currently sit in second place. Both teams are in great form with the Highlanders coming off the back of their biggest ever victory against the Crusaders while the Chiefs have notched victories over the Blues and Hurricanes in their last two matches. The Chiefs have history on their side with 29 wins over the Highlanders compared to just 12 victories for the Highlanders since their first meeting back in 1996. The Highlanders have the distinct advantage of playing under the roof in Dunedin and in front of their raucous fans in the ‘Zoo’ who will no doubt be in full voice following last week’s sensational win.
15: Connor Garden-Bachop 14: Ngatungane Punivai 13: Patelesio Tomkinson 12: Scott Gregory 11: Jona Nareki 10: Mitch Hunt 9: Aaron Smith (co-capt) 8: Kazuki Himeno 7: James Lentjes 6: Shannon Frizell 5: Pari Pari Parkinson 4: Bryn Evans 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Ash Dixon (co-capt) 1: Ethan de Groot
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Billy Harmon Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Hugh Renton
15: Damian McKenzie 14: Jonah Lowe 13: Anton Lienert-Brown 12: Quinn Tupaea 11: Etene Nanai-Seturo 10: Kaleb Trask 9: Brad Weber (c) 8: Luke Jacobson 7: Kaylum Boshier 6: Mitchell Brown 5: Naitoa Ah Kuoi 4: Tupou Vaa’I 3: Angus Ta’avao 2: Samisoni Taukei’aho 1: Aidan Ross
Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norries, Joe Apikotoa, Samipeni Finau, Pita Gus Sowakula, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Alex Nankivell, Shaun Stevenson