The Highlanders have the Waratahs this weekend to end the regular season.
With a log position of tenth and on 31 points they still have an outside change to make it into the playoffs but they will have to get a bonus point win and hope for some other results to go their way.
The Waratahs come into the game with the same prospect but that is a very slim one at most. All in all they have blew their chances last week to still make the playoffs.
This may not work in the favour of the Highlanders as they will face a team with some youngsters wanting to proof a point to their coach as he has left a bunch of his star players out for this match.
For the home side Coltman will run out in his 100th game for the club which is a major milestone for the hooker.
The home side will also be without their inspirational captain Ben Smith who has not recovered from his hamstring injury for this match.
Walden will come in for the Highlanders in the midfield to partner Thomson. This leaves Daniel Lienert-Brown on the bench for the match.
Gibson have been forced to rest Hooper, Beale, Kepu, Foley and Simmons for this clash which leaves him with a very inexperience side.
Nick Phipps will lead the side in Friday and we see the return of Hanigan and Dempsey to the starting lineup.
Mason will take up the number ten jersey with Clark at wing and Newsome moving to fullback.
We also see Johnson-Holmes, Miller and Sinclair joining the starting team.
Some Interesting Facts (OPTA)
- The NSW Waratahs picked up a 41-12 win over the Highlanders in their last regular season meeting in Super Rugby, snapping a three-game losing streak in such fixtures.
- The Highlanders have won their last four Super Rugby games on the bounce when hosting the NSW Waratahs, despite trailing at half-time twice in that time.
- The Highlanders have drawn two of their last three games on home turf in Super Rugby (W1); prior to the 2019 campaign, they had not drawn a match as hosts since 2005.
- The Highlanders have lost three of their last six games against Australian opposition in Super Rugby (W3), this after having lost only one of their previous 14 such fixtures.
- The NSW Waratahs have won their last two games on the bounce away from home in Super Rugby; the last time they won more in succession was a three-game streak from March to April in 2016.
- The NSW Waratahs have lost their last eight Super Rugby games in succession in New Zealand; their last victory there came in Round 10, 2015 against the Hurricanes.
- The Highlanders (8.3) have won the most scrums per game on their own feed in Super Rugby 2019 and boast the third-highest scrum success rate (95%) of any squad.
- Only the Hurricanes (5) have conceded fewer tries in the final 20 minutes of games this Super Rugby season than the NSW Waratahs (7).
- Waisake Naholo (Highlanders) has been directly involved in five tries (3 tries, 2 try assists) in his last five Super Rugby games against the NSW Waratahs, and has crossed for three tries in his last two Super Rugby games overall.
- NSW Waratahs’ duo Michael Hooper (210) and Damien Fitzpatrick (159) have made the most and third-most tackles respectively of any players in Super Rugby 2019.
Prediction: This is a difficult one with the Highlanders struggling of late and the Waratahs wanting to put one last good performance in for the season. We just go with Highlanders by 9 because we believe home advantage may pull it through.
Highlanders: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (c), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joshua Dickson, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Elliot Dixon.
Waratahs: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Mack Mason, 9 Nick Phipps (captain), 8 Hugh Sinclair, 7 Will Miller, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Jack Dempsey, 22 Jake Gordon, 23 Tautalatasi Tasi.