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
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs Australia14:30
USA vs New Zealand20:50
More International Match fixtures
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Preview
Castres vs LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Preview
Wasps vs HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Preview
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92 Preview
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs Edinburgh19:35
Ospreys vs Connacht19:35
Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615