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Thorn to lead embattled Highlanders

Wed, 20 Mar 2013 21:56
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He's been a great leader both on and off the field
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Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has turned to veteran All Black Brad Thorn for inspiration as the men from Dunedin attempt to break their losing start to the season.

With zero wins from three starts and rooted at the bottom of the table, the 38-year-old Thorn will captain the team in the absence of injured hooker Andrew Hore.

The Highlanders will look to break their duck against the defending champion Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.

The game will mark the 100th Super Rugby appearance of Highlanders stalwart Chris King. It will be his 84th game for the Highlanders, having made 16 appearances for the Crusaders in 2003 and 2004.

King made his debut for the Highlanders in 2005 and will join a small and illustrious group of centurions, with only Anton Oliver (127 games) and Jimmy Cowan (108 games) also  to reach 100 games while playing for the southern franchise.

The Highlanders coach, Joseph, praised King for his achievement, which he said is testament to his attitude and professionalism; both on and off the field.

"Chris has a very professional approach to his rugby," Joseph said.

"He trains hard, has great technique and gives his all for 80 minutes while on the park.

"He's been a great leader both on and off the field, and these attributes have made him a player who has been selected week in and week out for our team."

King has his second start for the season, and third appearance.

Three changes have been made to the run-on XV that lost a heartbreaker to the Hurricanes in Dunedin last Friday.

In the forwards Liam Coltman makes his first start for the Highlanders, with both Andrew Hore and Brayden Mitchell on the injury list.

Josh Bekhuis returns to lock and Jarrad Hoeata moves to blindside flank and Joe Wheeler moves to the bench.

In the backs Ma'a Nonu returns to inside centre, while Phil Burleigh will provide impact from the bench.

Jason Rutledge returns to the Highlanders as injury cover for Hore and Mitchell. Frae Wilson also joins the Highlanders' reserves for the first time.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (captain), 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.

Date: Friday, March 22
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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