The Highlanders’ loss to the Bulls over the weekend has officially consigned the franchise to their worse start to a Super Rugby season since 2013.
Their one win from five matches played doesn’t quite compare to the eight losses they started the 2013 year with but it also doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.
Yes, once the Highlanders get their match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires out of the way this weekend they will play all but one of their remaining fixtures in New Zealand, but that also means they have a slew of derbies still to play – which are arguably the toughest matches in the competition.
The coming week isn’t going to be any easier for the Highlanders either, with the Jaguares looking to bounce back from a fairly comprehensive defeat to the Sharks.
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The Highlanders will also be forced to overcome last year’s finalists without the help of their two most experienced players, Liam Coltman and Aaron Smith, who have returned home to New Zealand as part of their All Blacks rest agreement.
Coltman’s and Smith’s absences will cleave the side of over 240 Super Rugby caps – a little under half of the caps that the starting XV possessed in last week’s loss to the Bulls.
Alongside Coltman and Smith, Jona Nareki, Jesse Parete and Ayden Johnstone will return to Dunedin after taking on heavy workloads in the season to date.
The five absentees have been replaced by Sio Tomkinson, Josh Dickson, Ethan De Groot, Folau Fakatava and Conan O’Donnell.
This weekend’s game between the 7th placed Jaguares and 13th placed Highlanders will kick off at 8PM on Saturday evening in Argentina, or midday on Sunday for New Zealand viewers.
WATCH: Highlights from the Highlanders’ loss to the Bulls.
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