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Highlanders name team as they prepare to become the first side to play the Drua in Suva

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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It is the second week on tour for the Highlanders arriving in Fiji on Monday after travelling from the Super Round in Melbourne weekend.

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They have spent the week training and acclimatising to playing rugby in the hot and humid conditions which differ greatly to the autumnal Dunedin conditions they left a week ago.

This Saturday’s game at ANZ National Stadium in Suva will be another weekend for firsts as it will be the first time the Highlanders play the Fijian Drua and it will also be the first time the Fijian Drua play at home in Fiji.

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They have been based in Australia for the earlier rounds of the DHL Super Rugby Pacific season.

An important game for both teams each having only one win this season. The Highlanders are expecting the Drua to rise to the occasion and will themselves be preparing to match that and put on a much needed 80-minute performance.

Highlander’s Head Coach Tony Brown is expecting a charged atmosphere as supporters come out to see the home side play for the first time.

“There are so many unique aspects to this game for both teams. We are expecting a very determined Fijian Drua team to turn up on Saturday, they will have plenty of home support from passionate fans that will be seeing their team at home for the very first time,” he said.

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“We are expecting a tough encounter, the Drua play an exciting and unpredictable style and will need to be at our best for the full eighty.”

The team for round 11 includes the return of Aaron Smith who will Captain the side after being unavailable for selection in round 10.

A new look loose forward trio sees Marino Mikaele-Tu’u back at number 8 and after a barnstorming performance last weekend, Christian Lio-Willie, earns a start in the number 6 jersey with Billy Harmon completing the trio at 7. Gareth Evans has returned to Dunedin after receiving an injury against the Brumbies in Melbourne.

The team will have extra motivation to achieve with this weekend’s game being Tony Brown’s 100th involved with the Highlander’s coaching team, a feat that he fell just shy of as a player (97 caps from 2016-11) and brings his cumulative coaching and playing total to 197 games.

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Alongside this, it is also Andrew Makalio’s 50th Super Rugby game. Andrew made his debut for the Highlanders this season after playing 43 games for the Crusaders between 2017 and 2021.

Highlanders v Fijian Drua – 4:00pm, Saturday 30th April, ANZ National Stadium, Suva, Fiji

  1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  2. Andrew Makalio*
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Bryn Evans
  5. Sam Caird
  6. Christian Lio-Willie
  7. Billy Harmon
  8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Mitch Hunt
  11. Scott Gregory
  12. Fetuli Paea
  13. Thomas Umaga Jensen
  14. Sam Gilbert
  15. Connor Garden Bachop

Reserves

16. Rhys Marshall
17. Ethan de Groot
18. Josh Hohneck
19. Max Hicks
20. James Lentjes
21. Folau Fakatava
22. Marty Banks
23. Hugh Renton

-Press Release/Highlanders

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