PREVIEW: Reds v Highlanders
Thursday, April 7, 2016 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
ROUND SEVEN: Reds v Highlanders, Saturday 9 April, 9.40 (NZT), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
TALE OF THE TAPE
Travelling well but needing to be wary of the threat that the Reds could pose, the Highlanders are in second place in the New Zealand Conference but have the Crusaders, who are found points behind them, and the Chiefs, who are two points in front, playing on Friday night, so they will know what is required of them to maintain their position. The Reds have had a tough old time of it with only a draw against the Blues and two bonus points to show for their efforts this year.
And we're off! ?? #REDvHIG Suncorp Stadium Sat night. #LandersArmy @ Lord Alfred Hotel Caxton St????#WeAreHighlanders pic.twitter.com/FygxFOTRZw— The Highlanders (@Highlanders) April 7, 2016CENTRES OF ATTRACTION
The Brisbane publicity machine has been playing up the potential clash of the centres as a focal point in the game. Local star Samu Kerevi up against All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa. Fijian-born Kerevi made an impact against the Blues with his first try of the season and having worked on his fitness in the off season he is looking to make his mark on his marker in Brisbane. While a natural runner with the ball, Kerevi has yet to show he has the defensive power with which Fekitoa complements his attacking game. Watch this space.
PUTTING THE SLIPPER IN
Not quite what it sounds, but the return of captain James Slipper will be welcomed by the side after a delayed start necessitated by shoulder and knee surgery. One of the most competitive front rowers in Australia he will provide a massive boost for his pack and will ensure the Highlanders don't have everything their own way up front. He admitted to struggling while having to sit back and recuperate but he wants to win back the support of the Queensland public and is determined to lead the side back from the gloom that has enveloped them this year.
Matt Faddes has made some huge strides in Super Rugby this year, but on the wing. With Ben Smith out of action due to concussion protocols Faddes has been given his chance at fullback and while he has played there at club and provincial level for Otago, he hasn't yet started there in Super Rugby. But if anyone can do it, Faddes can based on what he has achieved this year. And his placement also provides the peripatetic Jack Wilson with a starter's chance on the right wing. Intriguing stuff from the defending champions.
REDS: 1.James Slipper (captain), 2.Andrew Ready, 3.Greg Holmes, 4.Cadeyrn Neville, 5.Rob Simmons, 6.Hendrik Tui, 7.Liam Gill, 8.Jake Schatz, 9.Nick Frisby, 10.Jake McIntyre, 11.Eto Nabuli, 12.Anthony Tainga'a, 13.Samu Kerevi, 14.Chris Feauai-Sautia, 15.Karmichael Hunt.
Reserves: 16.Saia Fainga'a, 17.Sef Fa'agase, 18.Sam Talakai, 19.Ben Matwijow, 20.Curtis Browning, 21.Scott Gale, 22.Sam Greene, 23.Ayumu Goromaru.
HIGHLANDERS: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Siosiua Halanukonuka, 4.Mark Reddish, 5.Joe Wheeler, 6.Luke Whitelock, 7.Shane Christie (captain), 8.Liam Squire, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Pat Osborne, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Jack Wilson, 15.Matt Faddes.
Reserves: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Ross Geldenhuys, 18.Josh Hohneck, 19.Tom Franklin, 20.Dan Pryor, 21.Fumiaki Tanaka, 22.Hayden Parker, 23.Jason Emery.