After back to back wins to start the season off the Highlanders will be traveling to Australia this weekend to face the Rebels.
The Rebels have the one win against the Brumbies in week 1 behind their name after their bye weekend last week.
With the Aussie teams showing up much more competitive than last year, we expect this to be a tight one.
The Rebels will go in as favourites to win this one playing at home and the fact that the Highlanders will be resting All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock.
The Rebels is not an easy team to face as they have been developing into a quality side the last couple of years and playing at home does not make it easier for Highlanders.
Coach Mauger have included bryn Gatland at ten and Josh Ioane at fullback for this weekend.
“We wanted to give the majority of the squad a run in these first three weeks, obviously having to manage All Black loads as well.
“We’ve got trust in all our guys and I know we’ve prepared really well.
“We’re ready to go and attack this game and I trust the guys to do the job.”Mauger said
The Rebels have got Wallabies Reece Hodge and Adam Coleman back on the bench for this match.
Wessels says the extra work Hodge and Coleman have put into their rehabilitation will ensure both players will be ready when they’re called into action.
“The biggest thing for us is how much those guys have competed in rehab to get to the level where they are now,” Wessels said.
“They’ve hit some personal best fitness markers, so I think Adam and Reece deserve selection having done that.”
With the side coming off an impressive victory over the Brumbies, Wessels admitted there were serious selection headaches about who to omit from the side.
It’s why Wessels says Coleman and Hodge starting on the bench shows the level of competition required to earn spots in the starting 15.
“We want to create an environment where players are competing for spots,” Wessels said.
The Highlanders have won six of their seven matches in Super Rugby against the Rebels since 2013.
New Zealand teams have a very impressive record against Aussie side’s and the Highlanders have win 14 of their last 16 matches against Australian opposition.
Prediction: Rebels will take this one by 9 points
Rebels: 15. Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14. Jack Maddocks, 13. Tom English, 12. Billy Meakes, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia, 8. Isi Naisarani, 7. Brad Wilkin, 6. Angus Cottrell, 5. Matt Philip, 4. Luke Jones, 3. Sam Talakai, 2. Anaru Rangi, 1. Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: Robbie Abel, Matt Gibbon, Jermain Ainsley, Adam Coleman, Richard Hardwick, Rob Leota, Michael Ruru, Reece Hodge
Highlanders: 15. Josh Ioane, 14. Waisake Naholo, 13. Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 11. Josh McKay, 10. Bryn Gatland, 9. Kayne Hammington, 8. Elliot Dixon, 7. James Lentjes, 6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Pari Pari Parkinson, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 3. Siate Tokolahi, 2. Ash Dixon (c), 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: Ricky Jackson, Ayden Johnstone, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Tom Franklin, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Folau Fakatava, Patelesio Tomkinson, Marty Banks