PREVIEW: Smith leads Highlanders against Waratahs

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 07:56
Large ben smith highlanders hands off 800

SUPER RUGBY PRE-SEASON ACTION: All Black Ben Smith will make his long-awaited return to the field when the Highlanders host a new-look Waratahs side in Queenstown as preparations for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

The last time these two sides met in Queenstown was in 2016 where the Highlanders ran out 40-35 winners.

In terms of team news, Highlanders have included several 2018 squad debutants Tyrel Lomax, Pari Pari Parkinson, Shannon Frizell, Josh Ioane and Tevita Nabura in the starting side and prop Kalolo Tuiloma and outside Josh McKay on the bench. Injury replacement players Terrance Hepetema (centre) and Marino Mikaele Tu’u (loose forward) will get their chance to impress while several local Otago and Southland players round out the 32.

The team will be captained by Ben Smith with co-captain Ash Dixon coming off the bench.

Head coach, Aaron Mauger, is looking forward to the contest and what it will deliver.

"There is plenty of competition within the team. Some guys there who have a bit of experience and then there are some new guys. We'll see how they go in the next couple of games and learn a bit about them,"

Meanwhile, Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has named a new-look Waratahs side which includes new captain and seven players in the starting XV who will make their debut.

Hooker Damien Fitzpatrick will captain the team for the first time while prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, locks Nick Palmer and Tom Staniforth, flank Will Miller, centre Lalakai Foketi, and wings Alex Newsome and Curtis Rona will all wear the NSW Waratahs jersey for the first time.

Gibson said the importance of pre-season games should not be underestimated.

"These matches provide us with the opportunity to test combinations while at the same time give the players who have completed the majority of pre-season the opportunity to perform and build our team identity. All the players have been super in their approach and deserve an opportunity. Friday’s game will give us an excellent assessment on where we are at in our preparation cycle," he said.

"I have made it very clear to the team that 2018 is about delivering on our potential, performing and being at our best. The young players are hungry to push for a regular spot in the starting line-up, which creates healthy competition in the squad," he added.

Fitzpatrick is relishing the chance to lead from the front.

"While the captaincy was unexpected, to be asked to captain the Waratahs in any capacity, whether in a preseason game or not, is a huge honour and I’m very grateful. I am proud to play for the NSW Waratahs and as a team we are ready to go out and display a new focus in 2018," he said.

"The game is a great opportunity for a group of players who have been working hard from day one this pre-season to show their talent. There are also a number of players who will wear the sky blue for the first time. The Highlanders are always a strong team so it will provide us with an opportunity to practice our game under pressure and away from home,"


Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Josh Timu, 13 Terrance Hepetema, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Nabura, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Josh Renton, 8 Adam Knight, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Greg Pleasants -Tate, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Guy Millar, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Siate Tokolahi, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Ryan Tongia, 24 Flynn Thomas, 25 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 27 Tom Franklin, 28 Dan Pryor, 29 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 30 Rob Thompson, 31 Matt Faddes, 32 Tevita Li, 33 Josh McKay.

Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Curtis Rona, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Mack Mason, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Will Miller, 6 Brad Wilkin, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Nick Palmer, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick (captain), 1 Paddy Ryan.
Replacements: Hugh Roach, Tom Robertson, Shambeckler Vui, Ryan McCauley, Lachlan Swinton, Mitch Short, Seb Wileman, Maclean Jones, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ned Hanigan, Rory O’Connor, Kelly Meafua

Date: Friday, February 2
Venue: Queenstown, New Zealand
Kick-off: 18.00 (05.00 GMT, 16.00 AEDT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

There are currently no matches being played
Mon, 19 February 2018
NMMU-Madibaz v Wits 14h45 Port Elizabeth
Maties v CUT-Ixias 16h30 Cape Town
UCT-Ikeys v Shimlas 16h30 Cape Town
NWU-Pukke v UJ 17h00 Potchefstroom
Fri, 23 February 2018
Dragons v Edinburgh 22h00 Rodney Parade
Highlanders v Blues 06h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Reds 08h45 Melbourne
Munster v Glasgow Warriors 19h00 Irish Independent Park
Scarlets v Ulster 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
Leinster v Kings 19h35 RDS
France v Italy 20h00 Paris
Sat, 24 February 2018
Sunwolves v Brumbies 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Chiefs 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Stormers 08h45 Allianz Park
Treviso v Connacht 12h00 Stadio Monigo
Bath v Sale Sharks 12h30 Recreation Ground
Lions v Jaguares 13h05 Johannesburg
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Ireland v Wales 14h15 Aviva Stadium
Gloucester v Wasps 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 15h00 Twickenham Stoop
Bulls v Hurricanes 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Scotland v England 16h45 BT Murrayfield
Ospreys v Cheetahs 17h30 Liberty Stadium
Sun, 25 February 2018
London Irish v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Madejski Stadium
Zebre v Cardiff Blues 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Saracens v Leicester Tigers 15h30 Allianz Park
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 0 0 0 0 0
Reds 0 0 0 0 0
Waratahs 0 0 0 0 0
Sunwolves 0 0 0 0 0
Rebels 0 0 0 0 0
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 0 0 0 0 0
Hurricanes 0 0 0 0 0
Chiefs 0 0 0 0 0
Highlanders 0 0 0 0 0
Blues 0 0 0 0 0
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 1 1 0 0 4
Lions 1 1 0 0 4
Sharks 1 0 0 1 1
Bulls 0 0 0 0 0
Jaguares 1 0 0 1 0