Planet Rugby

Preview: Highlanders v Chiefs

21st February 2013 12:17

Share:

Aaron Cruden Chiefs v Highlanders 2012

Chiefs: Title defence kicks off against the Highlanders

New Zealanders will get their first taste of Super Rugby action this year when the defending champions head to Dunedin to take on the Highlanders.

After last year's successful campaign, the Chiefs will be the team that every other side wants to beat. With this being a derby, expect a tough battle with neither side giving the other an inch.

Indeed, this clash promises much as both sides are favoured to reach the play-offs and to be amongst the front-runners in the New Zealand conference.

The Highlanders mean business in 2013. After missing out on the play-offs in 2012, coach Jamie Joseph has gone on a recruitment drive and bolstered his squad with the addition of World Cup winners Ma'a Nonu, Tony Woodcock and Brad Thorn.

The southerners seemed to lack confidence at crucial stages during last season's campaign and the experience which the above mentioned trio bring could prove the difference between winning and losing close matches. However, Thorn has been ruled out of Friday's opener.

With newly appointed captain Andrew Hore still serving a suspension, Hosea Gear will captain the Highlanders during the tournament's opening rounds. Gear led the team the during friendlies against the Chiefs (which the men from Hamilton won 36-14), the Crusaders as well as the Blues and it will be interesting to see how the added responsibilty affects his form on the wing.

Losing players of Sonny Bill Williams and Sona Taumalolo's calibre will be a massive setback for the Chiefs, but with experienced head coach Dave Rennie and assistants like former All Blacks boss Wayne Smith running the show, be assured that plans have been made to negate these losses.

With Gareth Anscombe now in their ranks, the Chiefs tactical kicking is expected to show considerable improvement. Having the former Blues pivot in the same starting XV alongside Aaron Cruden means that the Highlanders back three will have to be at their best at dealing with the aerial assault.

These two sides also met in the opening round of last year's competition with the Highlanders winning 23-19 in Hamilton, but the Chiefs turned the tables when they won the return fixture 27-21 in Dunedin - a game which ultimately cost the Highlanders a place in the play-offs.

Prediction: Although the Chiefs won the warm-up match, between these sides, don't read too much into that result. Homeground and their highly-rated new players will give the Highlanders the edge. It should be close but the Highlanders will win by three points!

The teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear (c), 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Buxton Popoali'i.

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Patrick Osborne, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Date: Friday, February 22
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.30 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Kane McBride
TMO:Vinny Munro

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South Africa20:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs CastresToulouse vs Castres Preview
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs Grenoble18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas vs GriquasPumas vs Griquas Preview
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Friday , August 22
Waikato vs CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Preview
Hawkes Bay vs TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Preview
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs Wellington14:35
Counties Manukau vs Otago16:35
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs Auckland14:35
Bay Of Plenty vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
Pumas 28 - 21 CheetahsPumas vs Cheetahs Report
Lions 41 - 13 Blue BullsLions vs Blue Bulls Report
Friday , August 8
Eastern Province Kings 16 - 35 Western ProvinceEastern Province Kings vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00