Round 8 of Super Rugby start with the Highlanders hosting the Hurricanes on Friday.
Highlanders will be coming off a bye weekend with the Hurricanes that needs to get back to winning ways after loosing last week against the Crusaders.
The Hurricanes did not had the best of times the last two weeks getting a narrow win over the Stormers and getting well beaten by the Crusaders.
It is difficult enough to have two back to back local derbies and even more so if you come off a loss.
The problem for the Hurricanes was not that they lost against the Crusaders but how the went about it.
This week sees another few changes made by coach Plumtree as Jordie Barrett move to the midfield again.
He will be running out on Friday as outside centre and this will be the fourth different jumper he’ll be wearing this season
Plumtree said in an ideal world Barrett would be playing in his regular starting position, but injuries to Aso and Proctor, as well as depth midfielders such as Billy Proctor and Peter Umaga-Jensen, had forced his hand.
“I’m not big on moving players around, I’d like him to settle in his favourite position, but right now, because of injuries, we’ve had to do this.”
He will be partner by Ngani Laumape on Friday.
Wes Goosen who had a brilliant game against the Stormers are back at wing this weekend.
The only other change to the side sees Kane Le’aupepe starting in the second row this week.
This means that their inspirational captain Dane Coles are still out with the a calf strain which will see TJ Perenara again leading the team.
The Highlanders have also made some changes to their side which sees Hammington and Faddes coming in for Aaron Smith and Naholo this weekend.
The Highlanders have to cope with three major injuries in Smith, Naholo and Squire.
Aaron Smith will be out for a month.
Folau Fakatava has been named on the bench with the pack that looks the same.
Tom Franklin and Josh Dickson form the locking combination and the powerful front row of Ayden Johnstone, Liam Coltman and Tyrel Lomax will be looking for a repeat of their scrum domination over the Hurricanes in round four.
With two wins from and one draw so far this season the Highlanders needs a win this weekend, but against a wounded Hurricanes side, it is not going to be easy.
Some interesting facts (By: OPTA)
- The last six Super Rugby clashes between the Highlanders and Hurricanes have been won by the home side on the day and the side leading at half-time.
- The Highlanders have won 14 of their last 15 home games (L1) in Super Rugby, four of those victories coming despite trailing at the interval.
- The Highlanders have won only one of their last five completed all-New Zealand Super Rugby derbies (L4).
- The Hurricanes have tallied 194 defenders beaten this season so far, 28 more than any other side, the Highlanders have beaten the fewest (89).
- Three of the top 10 metre-makers in Super Rugby this season are Hurricanes players (Ben Lam 383, Ngani Laumape 371, Jordie Barrett 328), no other side has more than two representatives in this list (Blues).
Prediction: Just to many injuries for Highlanders, Hurricanes by 14
Hurricanes: Chase Tiatia, Wes Goosen, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara (c), Reed Prinsep, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Kane Le’aupepe, James Blackwell, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Chris Eves, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Liam Mitchell, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Finlay Christie, Matt Proctor.
Highlanders: Ben Smith (cc), Matt Faddes, Richard Buckman, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Li, Marty Banks, Kayne Hammington, Luke Whitelock (cc), James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Tom Franklin, Josh Dickson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Jackson Hemopo, Elliot Dixon, Folau Fakatava, Josh Ioane, Rob Thompson