PREVIEW: Highlanders v Rebels

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Thursday, July 12, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details:
Highlanders v Rebels, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 5.15pm, Saturday, July 14

Played: 6
Won: Highlanders 5, Rebels 1
Last time: Highlanders 51-12 Rebels, March 31, 2017.


The Highlanders head into the game on the back of two 22-45 losses, the first to the Chiefs and last week to the Crusaders. However, at home this year, in Dunedin, they have been unbeaten. Their loss to the Chiefs in Suva was technically a home game. In other home games they have beaten the Blues (41-34), the Stormers (33-15), the Crusaders (25-17), the Brumbies (43-17), the Lions (39-27) and the Hurricanes (30-14). In away games they lost to the Hurricanes (12-29), the Chiefs (22-27), beat the Blues (34-16) and the Bulls (29-28). They lost to the Sharks (12-38) and the Waratahs (12-41). The Rebels have also had a mixed season starting with three wins, over the Reds (45-19h), the Sunwolves (37-17a) and the Brumbies (33-10h). They then lost to the Waratahs (27-51a). Their 40-14 home win over the Sharks was their last before a five-game losing sequence to the Hurricanes (19-50h), the Jaguares (22-25h), the Bulls (10-28a), the Stormers (18-34a) and the Crusaders (10-55h). They then beat the Brumbies (27-24a), the Sunwolves (40-13h) and the Blues (20-10a) while losing (26-31h) to the Waratahs and (23-37a) to the Reds.



Knowing their playoffs place is secure the Highlanders made the tough decision to rest key players for the game. That has seen flanker James Lentjes rewarded with the captaincy of the side. Coach Aaron Mauger said, "Jimmy's leadership has developed this year and we're really happy with where he is at. I'm sure he will get out there and lead by example." Making his debut for the side will be centre Thomas Umaga-Jensen. His season was delayed by shoulder surgery last year but he had impressed Mauger when playing against the French Barbarians in June. "We're pretty excited seeing him back on the field and it gives us a good opportunity to see where he is at, at this level. He is very physical, he is light on his feet for a big man, creates a lot of opportunities and makes some big hits on defence," he said.


Captain and lock Adam Coleman's adductor injury and halfback Will Genia's arm injury prevented them taking their place in the side and also missing will be fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and lock Geoff Parling due to knee and shoulder injuries respectively. Props Fereti Sa'aga and Sam Talakai have earned starting spots ahead of Tetera Faulkner and Jermaine Ainsley while lock Ross Haylett-Petty starts for first time since round 10 while Jack Maddocks has moved to fullback with Sefa Naivalu playing on the right wing. Coach Dave Wessels said the side was looking forward to the Dunedin challenge. "Everyone has embraced the areas of our performance we weren't happy with last week. We won't shy away from the fact this is a big game for our club and supporters in Melbourne, just like we won't shy away from the excitement of the reward on offer. We set out at the start of the season to play in a way that would make the people of Melbourne proud and we really want to do that again on Saturday night," he said.


The Highlanders have won their last nine games when hosting Australian teams in their region. The Force were the last side to win when recording a 31-29 success back in round five in 2014. (Opta)


If the Rebels can win in Dunedin it will be the first time they have won successive games played in New Zealand. They beat the Blues 20-10 in Round 16.


Highlanders: 1.Aki Seuili, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Alex Ainley, 5.Jackson Hemopo, 6.Shannon Frizell, 7.James Lentjes (captain), 8.Liam Squire, 9.Kayne Hammington, 10.Lima Sopoaga, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Josh Ioane.

Substitutes: 16.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Kalolo Tuiloma, 19.Tom Franklin, 20.Dillon Hunt, 21.Josh Renton, 22.Matt Faddes, 23.Josh McKay.

Rebels: 1.Fereti Sa'aga, 2.Anaru Rangi, 3.Sam Talakai, 4.Matt Philip, 5.Ross Haylett-Petty, 6.Angus Cottrell, 7.Colby Fainga'a, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 9.Michael Ruru, 10.Reece Hodge, 11.Marika Koroibete, 12.Billy Meakes, 13.Tom English (captain), 14.Sefa Naivalu, 15.Jack Maddocks.

Substitutes: 16.Nathan Charles, 17.Tetera Faulkner, 18.Jermaine Ainsley, 19.Sam Jeffries, 20.Richard Hardwick, 21.Harrison Goddard, 22.Jack Debreczeni, 23.Lopeti Timani.