Preview: Highlanders v Force
Thursday, March 13, 2014 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 7, Highlanders 2, Force 5
LAST TIME: Highlanders 18 lost to Force 19, May 25, 2013, at Perth
WALKING WOUNDED: Still out with injury for the Highlanders are Brad Thorn who is expected to be out for another week and wing Patrick Osborne whose ankle is likely to keep him out for two weeks. Meanwhile, the Force have named an unchanged team to that which hammered the Rebels 32-7 last weekend.
FORM: The Highlanders have made a strong start to the season with a resounding win over the Blues in their opening game and a 19-21 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton. Having come off the bye they have a great chance to build on that against a Force side which had their first win in three outings this year over the Rebels. Earlier they lost heavily to the Waratahs 21-43 and the Brumbies 14-27.
WE THINK: If the Highlanders can match the verve, and defensive tenacity they showed in their first two outings of the year this game should be theirs for the taking. The Force need to overcome a less than stellar record away from home. It will be something of a homecoming for Jayden Hayward, playing at fullback for the visitors while the combination of halfback Alby Mathewson and first five-eighths Sias Ebersohn has the ability to make life difficult. Wings Nick Cummins and Luke Morahan offer speed on the flanks. But it is the home side who look the more likely on this occasion.
Highlanders: 1.Kane Hames, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Chris King, 4.Jarrad Hoeata, 5.Joe Wheeler, 6.John Hardie, 7.Shane Christie, 8.Nasi Manu (co-captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Kurt Baker, 12.Shaun Treeby, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Richard Buckman, 15.Ben Smith (co-captain).
Reserves: 16.Ged Robinson, 17.Matias Diaz, 18.Craig Millar, 19.Josh Bekhuis, 20.Elliot Dixon, 21.Fumiaki Tanaka, 22.Hayden Parker, 23.Phil Burleigh.
Force: 1.Pek Cowan, 2.Nathan Charles, 3.Kieran Longbottom, 4.Sam Wykes, 5.Wilhelm Steenkamp, 6.Angus Cottrell, 7.Matt Hodgson (captain), 8.Ben McCalman, 9.Alby Mathewson, 10.Sias Ebersohn, 11.Nick Cummins, 12.Kyle Godwin, 13.Junior Rasolea, 14.Luke Morahan, 15.Jayden Hayward.
Reserves: 16.Heath Tessmann, 17.Tetera Faulkner, 18.Ollie Hoskins, 19.Adam Coleman, 20. Brynard Stander, 21.Ian Prior, 22.Zack Holmes, 23.Marsel Brache.
REFEREE: Glen Jackson