Match Details: Friday 16 April, 7:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Won: Highlanders 20, Blues 16
Last match: Blues 39 Highlanders 17 on 14 March 2021
Watch: Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand & overseas broadcast information HERE.
INJURY WOES CONTINUE FOR HIGHLANDERS
The poor Highlanders have suffered more season-ending injuries this week, with the in-form Connor Garden-Bachop out for the campaign with a broken wrist. He is currently atop of the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa ‘Rookie Watch’ leaderboard. It’s a cruel blow to the southern side who have already lost Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Folau Fakatava, Liam Squire and Freedom Vahaakolo for the year. Garden-Bachop’s misfortune has given Josh Ioane an opportunity to prove himself at fullback.
Blues flanker Tom Robinson has been handed the captain’s armband for the second time after a successful first up effort over the Hurricanes two weeks ago. Regular skipper Patrick Tuipulotu is still sidelined with a neck injury. With Tuipulotu out, young lock Sam Darry gets his third start alongside Gerard Cowley-Tuioti after strong performances against the Hurricanes. Robinson is joined in the loose forward trio by All Blacks Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu.
SPEAKING OF LOOSE FORWARD TRIOS …
How good will this battle be? Robinson, Papalii and Sotutu against Frizell, Harmon and Himeno. Shannon Frizell has been arguably the best blindside flanker in the competition, leading the most carries stats with 66. He’s been a dominant force and has linked well with Billy Harmon and inspirational Japanese No 8 Kazuki Himeno. On the flipside, Papalii has been a stronghold in the Blues forward pack. He’s returned from injury with vengeance and has fired his side up. You won’t want to miss this mouth-watering battle.
The Blues have won all three of their games against the Highlanders in Super Rugby Aotearoa after having won only three of their previous 12 games against them in Super Rugby.
Speight’s Highlanders: 1. Ayden Johnstone 2. Ash Dixon (cc) 3. Siate Tokolahi 4. Bryn Evans 5. Josh Dickson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Billy Harmon 8. Kazuki Himeno 9. Aaron Smith (cc) 10. Mitch Hunt 11. Jona Nareki 12. Scott Gregory 13. Patelesio Tomkinson 14. Ngatungane Punivai 15. Josh Ioane
Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman 17. Ethan De Groot 18. Josh Hohneck 19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit 20. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u 21. Kayne Hammington 22. Michael Collins 23. James Lentjes
Blues: 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe 2. Luteru Tolai 3. Ofa Tuungafasi 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti 5. Sam Darry 6. Tom Robinson © 7. Dalton Papalii 8. Hoskins Sotutu 9. Jonathan Ruru 10. Otere Black 11. Caleb Clarke 12. TJ Faiane 13. Rieko Ioane 14. Mark Telea 15. Stephen Perofeta
Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai 17. Alex Hodgman 18. Nepo Laulala 19. Josh Goodhue 20. Akira Ioane 21. Finlay Christie 22. Harry Plummer 23. Bryce Heem