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The Highlanders begin new chapter with team named for season opener

By Ned Lester
Timoci Tavatavanawai of the Highlanders looks on ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific Pre-Season match between Highlanders and Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium on February 10, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have named a big tight five for their opening game of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season against Moana Pasifika, despite the absence of their lone 2023 All Black Ethan de Groot.


Daniel Lienert-Brown will start at loosehead prop in de Groot’s place, partnering with the 140kg Saula Ma’u.

Young Fabian Holland will lend his 2.04-metre frame to the Highlanders’ line-outs, a sign of things to come from the team as they filter in talent from their recently established high-performance program.

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Captain Billy Harmon lines up in his familiar No.7 jersey while the Folau Fakatava will look to continue his electric pre-season form at halfback.

Welsh import gets the nod at first five-eighth, with young playmaker Cam Millar landing a bench role for the contest.

The new-look backline continues in the midfield with Tanielu Tele’a lining up at centre while in the outsides, Timoci Tavatavanawai and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens begin what promises to be huge campaigns with a start in their respective Highlanders debuts.

“There is all always a lot of anticipation around the first game of the season, naturally as a team we are keen to put on a good performance for our people. It’s an opportunity to inspire our fans and we are pretty determined to take it.” said coach Clarke Dermody of the home game.


Highlanders team to face Moana Pasifika:

  1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  2. Henry Bell
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Pari Pari Parkinson
  5. Fabian Holland
  6. Sean Withy
  7. Billy Harmon (c)
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Rhys Patchell
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert
  13. Tanielu Tele’a
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

Replacements: Jack Taylor, Ayden Johnstone, Jermaine Ainsley, Oliver Haig, Nikora Broughton, Nathan Hastie, Cameron Millar, Jonah Lowe


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