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ACT Brumbies Vs. The Highlanders
2016 Super Rugby Tournament, 23 July, 2016
|The Highlanders 15 defeated ACT Brumbies 9|
|ACT Brumbies||The Highlanders|
|Referee: A Gardner|
|Touch judges: B O'Keeffe & N Berry|
The first Super Rugby quarter-final is in Canberra and features the only remaining Australian hopeful, the Brumbies, who host current champions the Highlanders. Join The Roar from 6pm (AEST) to follow our live coverage of the game.
The Brumbies finished the regular season in fourth place as Australian Conference winners and with 43 points.
The Highlanders finished in fifth place overall but second in the New Zealand Conference with 52 points.
Last season the Highlanders won the title, but history isn’t on the visitor’s side. They trail the Brumbies in their head-to-head record 12-8, and haven’t won in the Australian capital since 2006.
However, they have already played once this season and the match was won 23-10 by the Highlanders at Invercargill, when the home side produced a remarkable defensive performance to foil the Brumbies.
The Brumbies’ form has been underwhelming of late but they have been given a huge boost for this match with the return of David Pocock from a six-week injury lay off.
On the subject of injuries, Wallabies lock Rory Arnold has been ruled out of tonight’s match after failing to recover from an elbow injury suffered during last week’s win over the Western Force. Blake Enever will take his spot in the starting side.
The absence of Arnold’s height will hurt the hosts, with the lineout perhaps one area they could have really targeted the Highlanders.
In other changes to the squad, Robbie Coleman replaces James Dargaville on the wing. Ruan Smith will start at tighthead prop with Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin named on the bench after recovering from injury. Leulua’iali’i-Makin replaces Ben Alexander in the reserves.
The Highlanders have made two changes for this match. No. 8 Liam Squire starts after impressing from the bench last week, meaning the versatile Luke Whitelock shifts to lock. Alex Ainley is absent after his outstanding display last Saturday against the Chiefs.
After recovering from illness, co-captain Shane Christie is back on the side of the scrum replacing James Lentjes. Christie missed the last two matches but has been passed fit to play and will make his 11th appearance for the season.
Prop Josh Hohneck and hooker Ash Dixon will both celebrate their 50th Super Rugby games.
Cold and wet weather is predicted which will no doubt slow the game down. If the Brumbies can somehow reduce the impact of Aaron Smith, they stand a chance, while Pocock will look to outmuscle the slightly underdone Christie in another key area of the game.
Unlike the Brumbies, the Highlanders were in imperious form last week. Expect it to continue tonight.
Highlanders by ten.