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PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Brumbies v Highlanders

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Thursday, July 21, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images


Match Details:
Brumbies v Highlanders, 8pm Friday 22 July, GIO Stadium, Canberra

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Brumbies were the most consistent Australian team in the regular season with 10 wins from 15 matches to take their spot at the top of the Australian conference. The Highlanders stalled in the middle of the season with losses to the Reds and Sharks before coming home strong to claim the runners up position in the NZ Conference. The Highlanders will take confidence from their 23-10 victory over the Brumbies in round 10 but will be weary of their recent record against the Canberra-based side which has seen just two victories from the last nine matches.
CANBERRA FORTRESS
Just as the Highlanders love playing at home under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, so to do the Brumbies at GIO stadium in Canberra. The Brumbies have won their last four games at home, outscoring opponents by a combined 156-45 to show how strong they are in the capital city. To underscore their strength at home, the Brumbies thumped the eventual table topping Hurricanes by a resounding 52-10 in round one. The Highlanders will be hoping their well-travelled fan group the ‘Landers Army’ is in full voice to compete with the passionate Brumbies supporters. 

QUICK TAP: HIGHLANDERS BRACE FOR BRUMBIES BACKLASH

MOBILITY OVER HEIGHT
In a move to diffuse the threat of Brumbies pilfer King David Pocock, Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has selected regular number eight Luke Whitelock at lock. The switch of Whitelock to lock allows for a re-jigged loose forward trio with Shane Christie returning from injury to take the number seven jersey while new All Blacks Liam Squire and Elliott Dixon come in at number eight and blind side flanker respectively. The loose forward battle will be immense with Pocock joined by veteran Scott Fardy and the classy Jarrad Butler.

X FACTOR

While the forward battle will be intense, the game could be decided out wide where both teams boast plenty of x-factor. The halfback battle will be of Test match standard with Argentina’s maestro Tomas Cubelli squaring off with the fast passing Aaron Smith for the Highlanders. Both halfbacks will be hoping to ignite their backlines which include proven names like Christian Lealiifano, Tevita Kuridrani and Matt Toomua for the Brumbies and Lima Sopoaga, Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo and Ben Smith for the Highlanders.
TEAMS
Highlanders: 15: Ben Smith 14: Waisake Naholo 13: Matt Faddes 12: Malakai Fekitoa 11: Patrick Osborne 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Liam Squire 7: Shane Christie 6: Elliot Dixon 5: Luke Whitelock 4: Tom Franklin 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Ash Dixon 1: Daniel Lienert-Brown
Reserves: 16: Liam Coltman 17: Aki Seiuli 18: Siosiua Halanukonuka 19: Mark Reddish 20: Dan Pryor 21: Te Aihe Toma 22: Fletcher Smith 23: Rob Thompson

Brumbies: 15: Aidan Toua 14: Nigel Ah Wong 13: Tevita Kuridrani 12: Matt Toomua 11: Robbie Coleman 10: Christian Lealiifano 9: Tomas Cubelli 8: Jarrad Butler 7: David Pocock 6: Scott Fardy 5: Sam Carter 4: Blake Enever 3: Ruan Smith 2: Stephen Moore (C) 1: Scott Sio
Reserves: 16: Josh Mann-Rea 17: Allan Alaalatoa 18: Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin 19: Tom Staniforth 20: Michael Wells 21: Joe Powell 22: Andrew Smith 23: James Dargiville 24: Lausii Taliuli (one to be omitted)