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Highlanders' All Blacks return home as team prepares to bounce back against Jaguares

By Tom Vinicombe
Aaron Smith. (Photo by Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

Continue reading below…

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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.

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The five absentees have been replaced by Sio Tomkinson, Josh Dickson, Ethan De Groot, Folau Fakatava and Conan O’Donnell.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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Turlough 2 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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