Super Rugby Preview: Highlanders v Chiefs

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Thursday, May 2, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match Details: Highlanders v Chiefs, 7.35pm, May 4, 2019, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Played: 32
Won: Highlanders 14, Chiefs 18
Last time: Highlanders 30-27 Chiefs, February 2, 2019
Referee: Mike Fraser


After starting the season with consecutive wins (Chiefs 30-27a, and the Reds 36-31) the Highlanders had to wait until their last two games to record their next two wing (the Blues 24-12 and Sunwolves 52-0a). In between they lost to the Rebels 19-24a, the Hurricanes 22-25a, shared their abandoned game with the Crusaders, lost to the Blues 26-33a, the Hurricanes 28-31 and the Crusaders 17-43a. The Chiefs lost their first four to the Highlanders 27-30, the Brumbies 17-54a, the Sunwolves 15-30, the Crusaders 28-57a but then drew 23-23 with the Hurricanes. They beat the Bulls 56-20a, the Jaguares 30-27a and the Blues 33-29. But they lost their last two games 17-23 to the Lions and 19-47a to the Hurricanes.


While the Highlanders had gone through some frustrations when on the losing end of close results, there had still been some benefits and that had seen the experience factor within the squad grow as younger players were given opportunities which put presssure on more senior players. That had resulted in those senior players now producing some of their best rugby, coach Aaron Mauger said. As a result the side's loose forwards had become one of the more competitive areas of the side. With Liam Squire expected to return next week that would only increase. This week co-captain Luke Whitelock will remain on the blindside of the scrum in an unchanged pack from that which beat the Sunwolves. Elliot Dixon has retained the No.8 sport while Shannon Frizell will be on the bench. "Those guys that are playing at the moment have got runs on the board," Mauger said. Once Squire returned, "It will depend on what we need to do each week and who's playing the best," Mauger said.


If there has been one team that has learned how to cope with injury frustrations in recent years it has been the Chiefs. But even that ability has its down moments and one of the biggest has been not having inspirational captain and lock Brodie Retallick to call on while he recovers from a wrist injury. However, the return of halfback Brad Weber, prop Nepo Laulala and wing Sean Wainui have been a definite lift for the Chiefs. Coach Colin Cooper said: "We have had a testing couple of weeks and we know it isn't going to get any easier for us. We are not afraid of the contest on Saturday against the Highlanders, we have come together as a team over the week and remain focused on what we can control. We need to start strong and take that momentum through for the 80 minutes."


The Highlanders have won 15 of their last 17 home games, but one of those defeats was to the Chiefs, who have won their last two away games against the Highlanders.


Having lost their last three New Zealand games on the road, the Chiefs are looking to break a run that last occurred in a five-game stretch from May 2010 to May 20111.


Highlanders: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Jackson Hemopo, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7.James Lentjes, 8.Elliot Dixon, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Josh Ioane, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Matt Faddes, 15.Ben Smith (co-captain).

Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Ayden Johnstone, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Josh Dickson, 20.Shannon Frizell, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Josh McKay, 23.Patelesio Tomkinson.

Chiefs: 1.Atu Moli, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Michael Allardice, 5.Mitchell Brown, 6.Luke Jacobson, 7.Lachlan Boshier, 8.Tyler Ardron, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Marty McKenzie, 11.Etene Nanai-Seturo, 12.Anton Lienert-Brown, 13.Tumua Manu, 14.Sean Wainui, 15.Solomon Alaimalo.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Polwart, 17.Ryan Coxon, 18.Angus Ta'avao, 19.Jesse Parete, 20.Taleni Seu, 21.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22.Shaun Stevenson, 23.Bailyn Sullivan.