The Rebels may have pulled off a big victory over the Brumbies in Melbourne last week, but they are still chasing their first win on foreign soil. In fact, their only wins away from home remains the three victories over the Western Force in Perth.
Having dispatched the Aussie conference leaders, the boys in blue now head to New Zealand looking to prove that they can do it away from Melbourne as well.
While the Rebels acclaimed last Friday’s win over the Brumbies as significant, their doubters keep pointing to their inability to win regularly and on foreign soil – a 12-match losing streak stretching back to their formation in 2011.
The victory over the Brumbies will be meaningless if the Rebels are unable to back it up against the Highlanders this week. The two teams have a near identical record – their two wins and three losses separated only by an extra bonus point for the Highlanders – and sit next to each other towards the foot of the table, a situation both will be looking to remedy with immediate effect.
A win would certainly do that but, like the Rebels before Friday, the Highlanders have found such results hard to come by.
2013: Rebels won 38-37, Melbourne
2012: Highlanders won 43-12, Dunedin
2011: Highlanders won 40-18, Melbourne
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Kurt Baker, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Chris King.
Reserves: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Matias Diaz, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata 23 TJ Ioane.
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Paul Alo-Emilie, 18 Cruze Ah-Nau, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Angus Roberts, 23 Alex Rokobaro.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)