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Two injury changes for the Highlanders ahead of Tonga trip

By Ben Smith
Folau Fakatava of the Highlanders looks on during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Moana Pasifika at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on February 24, 2024, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have named their team for their trip to play Moana Pasifika in Nuku’alofa for the first-ever Super Rugby Pacific game in Tonga.


Tongan-born and raised halfback Folau Fakatava and prop Saula Ma’au will have a homecoming of sorts after immigrating to New Zealand in their teenage years, with their parents in attendance to watch the special occasion.

The battle is a key one in the playoff picture with both teams sitting on the edge in 8th and 9th on the ladder. In the three previous fixtures between the two clubs, the Highlanders have never lost, sporting a 3-0 record.

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“If you look at our and Moana Pasifika’s position on the table its clearly an important game for both teams,” Clarke Dermody said.

“It will be a special occasion, particularly for our Tongan players, and there will be some unique challenges around the game that we have included in our preparation this week.”

All Black prop Ethan de Groot is on an enforced rest week meaning Daniel Lienert-Brown starts at loosehead, alongside Henry Bell at hooker and Saula Ma’u.

On the bench, Jack Taylor, Ayden Johnstone and Jermaine Ainsley make up the front row reserves.


The other forced changed is young No.10 Cameron Millar starting in place of Rhys Patchell who suffered a pectoral injury against the Force. Patchell is out for 6-8 weeks as a result.

Midfielder Jake Te Hiwi has been retained at second five-eighth alongside Tanielu Tele’a at centre, while Sam Gilbert will deputise on the bench as utility cover.

Highlanders v Moana Pasifika – 3:05pm (2:05pm NZT), Saturday 4th May, Teufaiva Sport Stadium, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
2. Henry Bell
3. Saula Ma’u
4. Mitch Dunshea
5. Fabian Holland
6. Oliver Haig
7. Sean Withy
8. Billy Harmon (c)
9. Folau Fakatava
10. Cameron Millar
11. Connor Garden-Bachop
12. Jake Te Hiwi
13. Tanielu Tele’a
14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens



16. Jack Taylor
17. Ayden Johnstone
18. Jermaine Ainsley
19. Will Tucker
20. Nikora Broughton
21. James Arscott
22. Sam Gilbert
23. Martín Bogado


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Wonton 5 hours ago
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Nick 7 hours ago
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