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'It's unacceptable': Why Highlanders pair were axed from starting line-up

By Ben Smith
Billy Harmon of the Highlanders looks on during the round 13 Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Melbourne Rebels at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on May 20, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders tenacious defensive effort in 2024 has been fuelled by the hard-working loose forward unit of Sean Withy, Billy Harmon, and Hugh Renton but head coach Clarke Dermody has revealed why he axed two of the trio.

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Withy and Harmon, captain of the Highlanders, were named on the bench to face the Waratahs and Dermody confirmed it was disciplinary reasons for the move.

The head coach said the punishment for being late to a team meeting which was not part of the standards the team desires to adhere to.

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“A couple of players this week were late for a team meeting,” Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said.

“Part of our standards this year is no matter who it is, it’s unacceptable and you lose your place in the team. So, someone else gets opportunity.

“Obviously, they want to compete but they understand the direction we want to take the team as well.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
2
Draws
0
Wins
3
Average Points scored
22
34
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
60%

“It’s part of our standards we set out at the start of the year.

“It’s something that all the players know. In isolation, being late for a team meeting isn’t big, but the direction we want to take the team is that everything is really important.

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“We want to make sure we turn up and show up to everything, and unfortunately there was a few boys that were a bit late.

“In isolation it’s probably not a big deal, but if you don’t stand for your standards then what do you stand for?”

All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot will skipper the side in Harmon’s absence, while youngster Nikora Broughton will start at openside and Tom Sanders will start at No 6.

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