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PREVIEW: Highlanders v Brumbies

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Thursday, April 12, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Highlanders v Brumbies, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Saturday, 7.35pm, April 14

Played: 22
Won: Highlanders 10, Brumbies 12
Last time: Highlanders 18-13 Brumbies, Canberra, March 25, 2017

FORM
After a strong showing with wins over the Blues (41-34), the Stormers (33-15) and the Crusaders (25-17), the Highlanders have fallen off the pace in the last two rounds with a (12-29) loss to the Hurricanes and a (22-27) loss to the Chiefs. The Brumbies won their opening game against the Sunwolves (32-25) but then lost away to the Reds (10-18) and the Rebels (10-33) before getting a 24-17 win over the Sharks. They backed that with their best win yet last weekend when heading the Reds (45-21).

QUICK TAP: HIGHLANDERS BRACE FOR BRUMBIES CHALLENGE

LINEOUT BOLSTERED
The Highlanders have benefited greatly from Jackson Hemopo's play in the tight exchanges, and with ball in hand, this season and with Tom Franklin and tight-loose forward Shannon Frizell, they should have plenty of height to take on the Brumbies big boys headed by Rory Arnold. Both teams have struggled with their lineouts, the Brumbies operating at 83 percent and the Highlanders a little better at 87 percent.

MIDFIELD CHALLENGE
Tei Walden and Rob Thompson may have been making waves among the New Zealand derbies but they meet a different, and just as challenging pairing when facing off against Christian Lealiifano and Tevita Kuridrani in what should be a key area of the game. Kuridrani, especially, is a forceful unit capable of testing the best defences and closing him down will be a requirement for the home defence. As always the value of the midfield is dependent on good loose forward support and with flanker David Pocock back in action and joined by Isi Naisarani there should be back-up aplenty for the visitors.
THE SCOOP
The Highlanders will need to be wary of former Southland first five-eighths Wharenui Hawera's goal-kicking boot, especially from penalty goal attempts. He landed eight unbroken goals so far this season, the only player who has yet to miss an attempt. However, his conversion ratio is not so high, having landed only two from eight.

FAST FACT

The Brumbies have lost their last 11 games against New Zealand teams – their longest drought – but they have won three of their last five games away from home against the Highlanders, although the last time they achieved that was in 2013.

TEAMS:
Highlanders:
1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Siate Tokolahi, 4.Jackson Hemopo, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Shannon Frizell, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Ben Smith (captain).

Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Aki Seuili, 18.Kalolo Tuiloma, 19.Alex Ainley, 20.Elliot Dixon, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Fletcher Smith, 23.Matt Faddes.

Brumbies:
1.Scott Sio, 2.Folau Fainga'a, 3.Allan Alaalatoa, 4.Rory Arnold, 5.Blake Enever, 6.Tom Cusack, 7.David Pocock, 8.Isi Naisarani, 9.Matt Lucas, 10.Wharenui Hawera, 11.Chance Peni, 12.Christian Lealiifano, 13.Tevita Kuridrani, 14.James Dargaville, 15.Tom Banks.

Substitutes: 16.Robbie Abel, 17.Nic Mayhew, 18.Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19.Sam Carter, 20.Michael Oakman-Hunt, 21.Joe Powell, 22.Kyle Godwin, 23.Andrew Smith