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Highlanders draft in former All Black as Folau Fakatava opts out of surgery

By Sam Smith
Folau Fakatava. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Highlanders and All Blacks halfback Folau Fakatava has elected a non-operative approach initially for his injured knee.

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Fakatava injured his right knee, rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), prior to the All Blacks’ departure for the Northern tour.

He suffered a similar injury during the 2021 Super Rugby season but returned in 2022 for the Highlanders, earning selection and his first Test cap for the All Blacks against the Irish during the July Test match series.

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He is optimistic that with good rehabilitation he can get back on the field in 2023 and play a full part in the Highlanders’ season.

“I had surgery on my ACL in 2021 and I wanted to avoid going down that route again if I could,” he said.

“I am excited about getting into my rehab and giving myself the chance of giving 2023 a real go. Obviously it’s a pretty big year.”

Fakatava will assemble with the Highlanders in November and begin his knee rehabilitation under the supervision of Highlanders medical staff.

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To complete the Highlanders halfback stocks, head coach Clarke Dermody has brought in former All Blacks halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi as cover for Fakatava. Tahuriorangi has already made 63 Super Rugby appearances for the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Crusaders and the Highlanders will welcome his experience.

“I’m delighted to be able to get someone of his calibre and experience into our squad. He is a quality player, and we know he will be able to deliver for us when required,” said Dermody.

With Fakatava unavailable for New Zealand’s trip north, Brad Weber and TJ Perenara have shared duties as the All Blacks’ third-choice halfback. Weber earned 15 minutes off the bench against Wales over the weekend while Perenara could be set for some game time in the final two matches of NZ’s end-of-year tour.

Finlay Christie has been Aaron Smith’s primary back-up throughout the season and with Fakatava set to return during next year’s Super Rugby Pacific tournament, the All Blacks selectors will eventually need to whittle down their numbers to just three scrumhalves for next year’s World Cup in France.

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– with Highlanders Rugby

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