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Aaron Smith to lead new-look Highlanders side against Waratahs

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith will captain the Highlanders on Friday night as the team from the south look to return to winning ways against the NSW Waratahs.

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After losing to the Western Force in Perth last weekend, the Highlanders have been boosted by the return of key players – including halfbacks Aaron Smith and Folau Fakatava.

Smith will lead the side in his first Super Rugby Pacific appearance since the win over Moana Pasifika almost a month ago. The 34-year-old has missed a few matches due to family reasons.

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As for teammate Folau Fakatava, the All Black missed the match against the Force because of an illness, but has been named on the Highlanders’ bench for round 10.

Head coach Clarke Dermody has made eight changes to the starting XV ahead of their crunch clash with the Waratahs at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium.

There’s only been one change in the tight five with Fabian Holland moving into the starting side following his impressive performance off the bench last weekend.

All Black Shannon Frizell will pack down in the backrow alongside Sean Withy and in-form No. 8 Hugh Renton.

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The backline looks quite different, though, with Smith set to partner Mitch Hunt in the halves.

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Sam Gilbert shifts from fullback into the midfield this week, and will play alongside centre Fetuli Paea. Thomas Umaga-Jensen drops to the bench for this match.

Scott Gregory and Jonah Lowe will line up on each of the wings, while rising star Connor Garden-Bachop will run out in the No. 15 jersey.

Ahead of their match against the Waratahs, head coach Clarke Dermody said the team is anticipated “a real battle on Friday night.”

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“We were disappointed in our performance last week, as we didn’t pay anywhere close to our best, which we need to do to get the results we are looking for as a team,” Dermody said in a statement.

“The Waratahs are in a similar place to us, and we anticipate a real battle on Friday night as a win is vitally important to both teams.”

Highlanders team to take on Waratahs

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Andrew Makalio
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Fabian Holland
  5. Will Tucker
  6. Shannon Frizell
  7. Sean Withy
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Aaron Smith (c)
  10. Mitch Hunt
  11. Scott Gregory
  12. Sam Gilbert
  13. Fetuli Paea
  14. Jonah Lowe
  15. Connor Garden-Bachop

Replacements:

  1. Rhys Marshall
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Pari Pari Parkinson
  5. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u
  6. Folau Fakatava
  7. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
  8. Jona Nareki

Not available: Vili Koroi, Marty Banks, Jeff Thwaites, Josh Timu, Leni Apisai, Martin Bogado, Jake Te Hiwi, Cameron Millar

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