PREVIEW: Highlanders v Hurricanes

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Thursday, March 3, 2016    Getty Images

ROUND TWO: Highlanders v Hurricanes, 7.35pm, Saturday 5 March, Forsyth Barr Stadium

Matches between these two great rivals are generally close-run battles – and don’t expect this clash to be any different. In 14 of the last 15 matches between these two sides, the winner has won by 7 points or less. The only exception being the Hurricanes 56-20 regular season win last year.

With the Super Rugby title up for grabs the last time these two teams met, the Highlanders edged the Hurricanes in a thrilling final. The Highlanders have most of their 2015 squad intact and will be hoping to repeat the dose this weekend. On the other hand, the Hurricanes are missing Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Ben Franks and Jeremy Thrush from their 2015 roster. Add to that the injury of captain Dane Coles and the Hurricanes will need some of their younger players to step up if they are to topple the defending champions. 

Two dynamic halfback-first-five combinations are set to square off in this crucial clash. The Highlanders boast the world-class pairing of Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga while the Hurricanes answer back with the talented duo of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett. With both pairings renowned for their speed and attacking prowess, the winner of this battle may come down to whoever gets the cleaner ball from their forward pack.

After starring in the Highlanders pre-season and making a classy cameo off the bench last week, Highlanders utility Matt Faddes earns his first Super Rugby start this week. Coming in for the injured Waisake Naholo, Faddes will mark All Blacks star Julian Savea in a challenging first start. The Otago Mitre 10 Cup star is sure to be spurred on from the home-town support at Forsyth Barr.

It will be a homecoming for the Highlanders for their first home game since winning the Super Rugby title last year. Expect ‘The Zoo’ (the Highlanders fanzone) to be in full voice as the Hurricanes try and spoil the party. As an indoor stadium, the atmosphere inside Forsyth-Barr will be fever pitch for this crucial clash. Make sure you join the fun and get tickets to experience the action LIVE! Get tickets HERE.


HIGHLANDERS: 15: Ben Smith (co-cap) 14: Matt Faddes 13: Malakai Fekitoa 12: Teihorangi Walden 11: Patrick Osborne 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Luke Whitelock 7: Shane Christie (co-cap) 6: Elliott Dixon 5: Joe Wheeler 4: Tom Franklin 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Liam Coltman 1: Brendon Edmonds

Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Liam Squire, Dan Pryor, Josh Renton, Hayden Parker, Jason Emery

HURRICANES: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder/James Marshall14: Cory Jane 13: Vince Aso 12: Ngani Laumape 11: Julian Savea 10: Beauden Barrett 9: TJ Perenara (c) 8: Victor Vito 7: Ardie Savea 6: Brad Shields 5: Mark Abbott 4: Blade Thomson 3: Jeff Toomaga-Allen 2: Leni Apisai 1: Reggie Goodes

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, James Marshall/Jason Woodward, Willis Halaholo.