Highlanders keep winning formula for Final
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: For the first time this season, the Highlanders have named an unchanged lineup and the southerners will enter the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final with an incredibly settled team.
Damaging left wing Jona Nareki and second row enforcer Pari Pari Parkinson both left the field early against the Brumbies last weekend after suffering shoulder knocks and were possible exclusions for the grand final but have been judged fit for the game.
Talismanic leader Ash Dixon – this week named captain of the Maori All Blacks – will play his 100th game for the Highlander on Saturday at Eden Park.
Both finalists enter the match unbeaten in the Trans-Tasman competition, only separated on the ladder by points differential.
The Highlanders had the wood over the Blues in their last encounter, winning 35-29 in Dunedin in mid-April. The hosts, however, won the last match between the two sides in Auckland and will enter the game as favourites.
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Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Date: Saturday, June 19
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe & Paul Williams
TMO: Brendon Pickerill