Highlanders Up Against Injured Hurricanes And History On Sunday

The Hurricanes and Highlanders have everything to play for on Sunday 05:35 (SA Time) in Wellington at the Sky Stadium. The Hurricanes had their first win of the 2021 Investec Super Rugby Series Aotearoa against the Chiefs (25-18), while the Highlanders are hurting after their loss against the Crusaders (20-40) last weekend. The Highlanders haven’t beaten the Hurricanes in Wellington since they won the Super Rugby final in 2015.

From Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara to Ardie Savea and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u guarantee some brilliant match-ups. The scrumhalf battle will be a classic while the clash of the No 8’s will also be great. Highlanders loosie Mikaele-Tu’u has been impressive so far in 2020 and will be put to the test by Savea, who’s finding his feet after returning from a long injury layoff.''

The Highlanders have stayed largely with the team that has played in the first three matches of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.

Siate Tokolahi will play his 50th game for the Highlanders after making his debut in 2017 following two seasons with the Chiefs. The Tongan born Tokolahi has recently announced his signing with the Southland Stags and returns to the starting front row with co-captain Ash Dixon and Ayden Johnstone.

Scott Gregory returns to the starting side on the right-wing in place of the injured Ngatungane Punivai. In the forwards, lock Jack Whetton earns a start after an impressive showing off the bench against the Crusaders. Whetton replaced the well-performed Josh Dickson who sustained a broken leg and will, unfortunately, have to sit out the rest of the Super Rugby season. A 6:2 forwards to backs bench split gives Manaaki Selby-Rickit an opportunity this week alongside Jesse Parete and Teariki Ben-Nicholas while Kayne Hammington and Bryn Gatland will cover the backs.

“This is clearly an important match for both teams and our focus will be on converting the opportunities we create,” said Head Coach Aaron Mauger.

“Our record in Wellington hasn’t been great in recent times so we are under no illusions about the difficulty of playing the Hurricanes in Wellington, we have shown a lot of resolve in the last month or so, but we will need to be at our best again”

Highlanders: 1. Ayden Johnstone, 2. Ash Dixon (cc), 3. Siate Tokolahi, 4. Pari Pari Parkinson, 5. Jack Whetton, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Dillon Hunt, 8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 9. Aaron Smith (cc), 10. Mitch Hunt, 11. Jona Nareki, 12. Patelesio Tomkinson, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Scott Gregory, 15. Michael Collins. Replacements: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Jeff Thwaites, 19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20. Jesse Parete, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23. Teariki Ben-Nicholas.

Murphy Taramai is set to become Hurricane 274, after being named on the bench for this Sunday’s. Due to minor injuries, Dane Coles, Fraser Armstrong, Gareth Evans and Reed Prinsep have not been included in the squad. It means, Ben May, Asafo Aumua and Devan Flanders have been called up to the starting XV.

At the back, Fletcher Smith rotates with Jackson Garden-Bachop at flyhalf while Vince Aso has made his way back into the midfield.

The Hurricanes: 1. Ben May, 2. Asafo Aumua, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. James Blackwell, 5. Scott Scrafton, 6. Devan Flanders, 7. Du’Plessis Kirifi, 8. Ardie Savea, 9. TJ Perenara (C), 10. Fletcher Smith, 11. Ben Lam, 12. Ngani Laumape, 13. Vince Aso, 14. Kobus Van Wyk, 15. Jordie Barrett. Replacements: 16. Ricky Riccitelli, 17. Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18. Alex Fidow, 19. Vaea Fifita, 20. Murphy Taramai, 21. Jamie Booth, 22. Billy Proctor, 23. Wes Goosen.

Opta Facts:

18 of the last 22 Super Rugby clashes between the Hurricanes and Highlanders have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer, including their last two meetings on the bounce.

The Hurricanes have lost their last two Super Rugby games on home turf; the last time they lost more in succession at home was four-game stretch across the 2013 and 2014 campaigns.

The Highlanders have scored the opening try of the game in each of their last two Super Rugby meetings with the Hurricanes, after doing so only once in nine meetings prior; however, they’ve gone on to lose their last two encounters with the Hurricanes.

The Highlanders boast a 94% success rate at the lineout so far in Super Rugby Aotearoa, the highest of any team in the competition – indeed, they are the only team to have lost fewer than one lineout per game (0.7) on their own throw.

Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes) has crossed for five tries in his last five Super Rugby games against the Highlanders, including three tries in his last two appearances against them.