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The Highlanders will go head to head with the Queensland Reds on Friday afternoon in Dunedin as the Reds kick off their Super Rugby campaign and the Highlanders look to build on their great win in Round 1. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 5:35pm AEDT.
The Highlanders kicked off their 2019 campaign with a gutsy win against conference rivals, the Chiefs last week.
Not only did they come from behind to steal the win, they did so with just 14 men as midfielder Sio Tomkinson was red carded.
Interestingly the judiciary has since overruled the red card decision and Tomkinson is available for selection if coach Aaron Mauger wants.
Speaking of selection, Mauger has decided to bring back some of his All Blacks into the run on team and the Highlanders will start with some exciting talent on the field – unsurprising then that the bookies have them at $1.06 for the win.
Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo will both start while Shannon Frizell will start at blindside and Dillon Hunt will wear No.7.
Against the Chiefs, the Highlanders certainly hadn’t found their usual flow but that’s not a shock considering it was the opening game of the season.
Ben Smith looked his usual composed self and brought both stability and some attacking firepower to the back line.
The Highlanders will need him and Aaron Smith in good form as the youthful Josh Ioane will retain his No.10 jersey.
While the young fly-half is clearly talented, he does pose a potential weak link in the Highlanders side and you’d assume that the Reds big runners will look to target him in both attack and defence.
For the Reds this is an exciting season. 2018 can be termed a rebuilding year but only if they can prove in 2019 that they’ve actually rebuilt something.
Brad Thorn made his approach clear last season and partly as a result of this, names such as Quade Cooper, Karmichael Hunt and James Slipper are now all plying their trade at direct rivals.
That’s a lot of experience and talent that is missing but to be fair it wasn’t there last season either so they should be used to it.
There are a few new faces to the team this year through a combination of youth development and off-season trades and we could see five Queensland debuts on Friday.
Feao Fotuaika, Sefa Naivalu and Bryce Hegarty will all start their first Reds game and Fraser McReight and Isaac Lucas will be impatiently waiting on the bench for their debuts.
While there is definitely some young guns in the ranks it’s important to note that the Reds back line will have over 260 Super Rugby games between them with the powerful Samu Kerevi keen to build upon his impressive 2018 season.
One key partnership to keep an eye on is in the Reds halves where Moses Sorovi and Hamish Stewart will want to get off to a great start to the season.
Stewart had some impressive moments in 2018 and many are excited to see what he can do this year. But there is a lack of experience in this key pairing and the Highlanders will be keen to test and break them.
This is the first outing for the Reds and so there will be plenty of hope and expectation amongst fans and the team. However the Highlanders are a class outfit and it’s hard to see them losing this one at home.
Highlanders to win by 12 points.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 17:25 AEDT on Friday.
Where: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Date: Friday 22nd February 2019
When: Kick off 17:35 AEDT
TV: Fox Sports
Betting: Highlanders $1.06, Reds $8.60
15 Ben Smith (cc)
14 Waisake Naholo
13 Rob Thompson
12 Teihorangi Walden
11 Tevita Li
10 Josh Ioane
9 Aaron Smith
8 Luke Whitelock (cc)
7 Dillon Hunt
6 Shannon Frizell
5 Josh Dickson
4 Jackson Hemopo
3 Tyrel Lomax
2 Liam Coltman
1 Ayden Johnstone
16 Ash Dixon
17 Daniel Lienert-Brown
18 Siate Tokolahi
19 Jack Whetton
20 Marino Mikaele Tu’u
21 Kayne Hammington
22 Marty Banks
23 Matt Faddes
15 Bryce Hegarty
14 Chris Feauai-Sautia
13 Jordan Petaia
12 Samu Kerevi (c)
11 Sefa Naivalu
10 Hamish Stewart
9 Moses Sorovi
8 Caleb Timu
7 Liam Wright
6 Angus Scott-Young
5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
4 Izack Rodda
3 Taniela Tupou
2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa
1 Feao Fotuaika
16 Alex Mafi
17 Harry Hoopert
18 Ruan Smith
19 Harry Hockings
20 Fraser McReight
21 Tate McDermott
22 Duncan Paia’aua
23 Isaac Lucas
Referee Federico Anselmi
Assistant referees Nick Briant, James Doleman
TMO: Glenn Newman