PREVIEW: Chiefs v Highlanders

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Friday, May 6, 2016    Getty Images

Chiefs v Highlanders, 7.35pm Saturday 8 May, Waikato Stadium

The Chiefs have been in irrepressible form this year, winning seven matches in a row to secure a five point lead at the top of the Super Rugby ladder. The Highlanders have shown glimpse of their 2015 form and were impressive in shutting out the Brumbies last week. Looking at the recent head-to-head record, the Highlanders have the edge with four straight wins over the Chiefs.

There are a number of key head-to-head battles in this match, but none maybe more anticipated than the clash between Ben Smith and Damian McKenzie. The Highlanders number fifteen is celebrated as one of the best fullbacks in the world game while McKenzie has lit up the competition. The 21-year-old may lead the competition in points, tries, defenders beaten and metres gained, but he has never faced an opponent of Smith’s calibre.
After fracturing his right leg in the season opener against the Blues, electric Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo returns to the starting line-up. Last year he was the Highlanders leading try-scorer and a vital attacking component in the championship winning side. Now back to full fitness, Naholo will combine with the equally potent Patrick Osborne in a wing duo that will be sure to test the Chiefs defence.

Chiefs Coach Dave Rennie said: “We’ve been working hard this week to prepare for a massive challenge on Saturday night. The Highlanders are very similar to us, they’ve got a group of guys who work hard for each other. With game-breakers across the park, they are the type of team that will sting you if you kick poorly or turn the ball over. It’ll be a hell of a spectacle with two very positive kiwi teams on display.”

With a fine forecast scheduled for this epic clash, a capacity crowd is expected to pack out Waikato Stadium. Get your tickets fast to secure your place at this clash. Get TICKETS HERE.

Chiefs: 15: Damian McKenzie 14: Toni Pulu 13: Seta Tamanaivalu 12: Charlie Ngatai 11: James Lowe 10: Aaron Cruden 9: Brad Weber 8: Michael Leitch 7: Sam Cane 6: Taleni Seu 5: Brodie Retallick 4: Dominic Bird 3: Hiroshi Yamashita 2: Hika Elliot 1: Mitchell Graham
Reserves: 16: Nathan Harris 17: Siate Tokolahi 18: Kane Hames 19: Michael Allardice 20: Maama Vaipulu 21: Kayne Hammington 22: Anton Lienert-Brown 23: Sam Vaka

15: Ben Smith 14: Waisake Naholo 13: Matt Faddes 12: Malakai Fekitoa 11: Patrick Osborne 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Luke Whitelock 7: Dan Pryor 6: Elliot Dixon 5: Alex Ainley 4: Tom Franklin 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Ash Dixon 1: Dan Lienert-Brown
Reserves: 16: Greg Pleasents-Tate 17: Aki Seiuli 18: Siua Halankonuka 19: James Lentjies 20: Gareth Evans 21: Fumiaki Tanaka 22: Marty Banks 23: Teihorangi Walden