Landers likely to ring the changes
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph looks set to overhaul his team for Friday’s Super Rugby match against the Brumbies in Dunedin.
Injuries will force Joseph’s hand after the embattled side lost three more players in the defeat to the Blues last Friday.
Buxton Popoali'i (head knock), Jason Emery (ribs) and Lima Sopoaga (ankle) have all been ruled out through injury, opening the door for the likes of Hayden Parker, who impressed during the pre-season.
Kade Poki will make a welcome return with Joseph possibly injecting more fresh faces into the side as the Highlands try to end their worst start to a Super Rugby campaign since 2008 with a maiden victory on Friday.
Tamati Ellison, however, is still a couple of weeks away from returning after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
"The thing about Tamati is he's very much our calming influence in the backline and he's been sorely missed in terms of tactical appreciation, support for our 10 outside, those sorts of things," Joseph told Fairfax NZ News.
"When he comes back it isn't going to automatically turn either, because he's going to be short of a gallop but that role is sorely lacking in the backline."
Joseph was left frustrated by his team’s 18-29 loss in Auckland but accepted referee Steve Walsh’s decision to issue Ma'a Nonu a yellow carded for a shoulder charge on Piri Weepu, which cost his team 12 points.
"A shoulder charge, absolutely, those are the rules," Joseph said of the ruling.
"Having said that, if [Andrew Hore] had got low and made the tackle on Piri, and then Aaron [Smith] had got low, then we'd be talking about nothing.
“Those are the things that are really costing us. Steve Walsh and Ma'a go back a long way and I'm not really sure what the story is there."
Joseph felt Nonu had possibly tried too hard to make up for his mistake when he returned to the field and credited the Blues for nullifying the All Black midfielder.
Joseph said a pleasing aspect of the match was the performance of Mose Tuiali'i, who played in his first Super Rugby match since 2008 after returning from Japan.