Super Rugby Preview: Highlanders v Reds

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match Details: Highlanders v Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 7.35pm Friday, February 22

Played: 22
Won: Highlanders 12, Reds 10
Last time: Reds 15-18 Highlanders, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, May 26, 2018
Referee: Frederico Anselmi


The Highlanders made the perfect start with a win on the road against the Chiefs last weekend 30-27 although they needed to hold on through a tough middle section of the game to come from behind. They started and finished well but were vulnerable through those middle stages. The Reds had the bye first up but gave the Chiefs a tough contest in their pre-season game.


The Highlanders side has been selected with plenty of movement in mind in the first game under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Jackson Hemopo, who started on the blindside flank last week, has returned to his more familiar position of lock. That has allowed fellow All Black Shannon Frizell, who had such an impact in the Highlanders' comeback win over the Chiefs last week, to start on the blindside while Dillon Hunt will start on the openside flank. Palesio Tomkinson had his red card from last week rescinded by Sanzaar but he was not named in the match day 23 with the second five-eighths position going to Teihorangi Walden. Waisake Naholo is back on the wing for his first outing of the season.


Three starting debutants are included in the Reds side with prop Feao Fotuaika producing the Reds' version of the transformation New Zealand saw with their own prop Karl Tu'inukuafe. Fotuaika had been going to quit rugby but in the off-season shed a massive amount of weight to be ready to make his debut in Dunedin. Coach Brad Thorn said, "We identified him playing club rugby last year and his transformation since has been something to admire. Faeo has dropped 16 kgs in the pre-season and his scrummaging is now very dominant." Former Rebels and Waratahs player Bryce Hegarty will start at fullback while Wallby Sefa Naivalu will debut on the wing.


The Highlanders will be seeking to avoid their first back-to-back losses against Australian teams. They lost their last game against an Australian side, the Waratahs, in last year's quarterfinal although they have won three of their last four game against the Reds, who have also only won one of their last four season-openers.


The Reds were the only side to average fewer than 10 clean breaks per match last season, finishing on 9.5 while they also averaged the fewest metres (388).


Highlanders: 1.Ayden Johnstone, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Jackson Hemopo, 5.Josh Dixon, 6.Shannon Frizell, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Josh Ioane, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Ben Smith.

Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Jack Whetton, 20.Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Marty Banks, 23.Matt Faddes.

Reds: 1.Feao Fotuaika, 2.Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3.Taniela Tupou, 4.Izack Rodda, 5.Lukhan Salakai-Loto, 6.Angus Scott-Young, 7.Liam Wright, 8.Caleb Timu, 9.Moses Sorovi, 10.Hamish Stewart, 11.Sefa Naivalu, 12.Samu Kerevi (captain), 13.Jordan Petaia, 14.Chris Feauai-Sautia, 15.Bryce Hegarty.

Substitutes: 16.Alex Mafi, 17.Harry Hoopert, 18.Ruan Smith, 19.Harry Hockings, 20.Fraser McReigh, 21.Tate McDermott, 22.Duncan Paia'aua, 23.Isaac Lucas.