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More youth injected into Highlanders unit to face Brumbies

By Ned Lester
Tanielu Tele'a celebrates scoring the Highlanders try. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The Highlanders boast a young team looking to make a name for themselves and are proving to be ahead of schedule in their return to competitiveness after losing a wealth of experience over the offseason.

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Their next challenge awaits in the form of an underperforming Brumbies outfit hungry to right the ship and go one better than previous seasons’ semi-final eliminations.

A mountainous task requires a fit and firing team and that’s exactly what coach Clarke Dermody has named for the encounter, although a slight departure from the consistency of selection in the opening three rounds.

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The team’s lone All Black Ethan de Groot is again joined by Jack Taylor and Saula Ma’u in the front row, with Max Hicks and Fabian Holland rounding out a big tight five.

Captain Billy Harmon returns to the starting unit after a disciplinary relegation to the bench last week, joined by Tom Sanders and Hugh Renton in the loose forwards.

Folau Fakatava and Cameron Millar will line up in the halves, giving a glimpse into the team’s future and feeding a burgeoning midfield of Sam Gilbert and Tanielu Tele’a.

The lethal back three of Martin Bogado, Timoci Tavatavanawai and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens-Kneepkens are bound to produce excitement in the crowd and cause headaches for the Brumbies.

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It’s a home game that promises great insight into where both teams are at, with no result guaranteed in such a highly competitive Super Rugby Pacific season.

The home side will however be without their No 8 Hugh Renton for an estimated six weeks after an ankle injury in the win over the Waratahs.

“We’re gutted to have lost Hughy, he’s been a real asset on the field, but we have confidence in our other loose forwards to do their jobs,” Dermody said. “The same goes for Cam, he’s benefitted from two weeks at home training and playing for the development team and has now got his opportunity to prove himself as a starting 10.

“There’s nothing like being at back at home and we’re looking forward to putting on a good show for our fans – our Highlanders family – back at Forsyth Barr stadium on Saturday afternoon,” said Dermody.

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Highlanders team to face Brumbies 

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Jack Taylor
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Fabian Holland
  5. Max Hicks
  6. Tom Sanders
  7. Billy Harmon (C)
  8. Nikora Broughton
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Cameron Millar
  11. Martín Bogado
  12. Sam Gilbert (VC)
  13. Tanielu Tele’a
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

 RESERVES

  1. Henry Bell
  2. Ayden Johnstone
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Oliver Haig
  5. Sean Withy
  6. James Arscott
  7. Ajay Faleafaga
  8. Connor Garden-Bachop
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J
Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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