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Highlanders welcome back key players for Drua clash

By Finn Morton
Ethan de Groot, Pari Pari Parkinson and Josh Dickson of the Highlanders look on during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Two big name players are set to return for the Highlanders on Saturday when they take on the Fijian Drua at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

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Second-rowers Pari Pari Parkinson and Josh Dickson will return for the Landers in Round Five after being named in the run-on XV.

Leni Apisai is the only change to the front row, with the hooker replacing the injured Andrew Makalio in the starting team.

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Flanker Sean Withy will start at blindside for the Highlanders, and will pack down in a familiar looking backrow alongside captain Billy Harmon and the in-form Hugh Renton.

Following on from their first win of the season on Sunday, the Highlanders have named an unchanged backline to face the Drua.

Veteran Aaron Smith will start in the No. 9 jersey, and will partner Mitch Hunt in the halves. Sam Gilbert has also been given another opportunity at fullback after impressing against the Force last weekend.

After taking their home game down to Invercargill in Round Four, coach Clarke Dermody is looking to forward to playing “under the roof” in in Dunedin.

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“It was good to get a win in front of a supportive crowd in Invercargill last weekend and the guys are excited to get back out under the roof and put on a good performance against a dangerous Drua side on Saturday,” Dermody said in a statement.

Highlanders team to take on the Fijian Drua

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Leni Apisai
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Pari Pari Parkinson
  5. Josh Dickson
  6. Sean Withy
  7. Billy Harmon (c)
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Mitch Hunt
  11. Jonah Lowe
  12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
  13. Josh Timu
  14. Martin Bogado
  15. Sam Gilbert

Replacements:

  1. Jack Taylor
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Will Tucker
  5. James Lentjes
  6. Folau Fakatava
  7. Cameron Millar
  8. Jake Te Hiwi

Unavailable: Marty Banks, Freddie Burns, Mosese Dawai, Shannon Frizell, Scott Gregory, Fabian Holland, Vili Koroi, Andrew Makalio, Rhys Marshall, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Jona Nareki, Jeff Thwaites

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