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It's Thorn versus Matfield

Wed, 09 Apr 2014 09:13
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There will be a 39-year-old facing off against a 36-year-old in Dunedin on Friday.

No, it is not in an old-crocks club game, but a high-charged Super Rugby encounter - when two of the most respected locks, both World Cup winners, go head-to-head.

The return of double international Brad Thorn to the Highlanders team to face the Bulls in a Round Nine encounter at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday means he will face Victor Matfield for the first time since 2011 - when they played against each other in the Rugby Championship.

Thorn returns to the starting line-up for what is shaping up to be an exciting clash of the locking titans.

Matfield is a former Springbok captain with a record 110 Test caps to his name and is a player and mentor in the Bulls environment.

Thorn, who also represented Australia at Rugby League, played 60 Tests for the All Blacks. He is one of the most successful Rugby Union players and was the first player to win a World Cup, a Super Rugby title and the European Cup.

Both are known as hard men of the game and will be out to prove they are as good as any of the younger players on the field.

* After a close win against the Rebels in the previous round the Highlanders have made few changes to the starting line-up in an effort to secure a win at home.

Kane Hames returns from a one-week suspension and moves back into the loosehead prop position.

Thorn moves into the second row, while Jarrad Hoeata goes to the bench.

Elliot Dixon will start in the No.8 jersey, with co-captain Nasi Manu dropped to the replacement bench.

Also joining the reserves this week is John Hardie.

Patrick Osborne comes back on to the wing, with Kurt Baker sidelined for six weeks after a spear tackle in the Rebels game.

The remainder of the backline stays unchanged for this last home game before the team heads to South Africa to play the Sharks and the Stormers.

Those unavailable due to injury are Phil Burleigh (shoulder, one week till his return) and TJ Ioane (calf, two weeks).

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 John Hardie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Nasi Manu.

Date: Friday, April 11
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT; 09.35 SAST)
Referee: Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand),Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

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