Highlanders sweating over injured stars
INJURY UPDATE: The Highlanders may be without two of their key players in this weekend’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final against the Blues in Auckland.
Jona Nareki and Pari Pari Parkinson both left the field with shoulder issues during last week’s 33-12 win over the Brumbies in Canberra last Friday.
Highlanders assistant coach Riki Flutey said on Tuesday it’s unclear whether the duo will be available this Saturday.
“I hope so, I hope they are,” Flutey said.
“I’m not too sure what that looks like. We just need another report from the doc.”
Both players have been key figures for the Highlanders this season, with Nareki impressing with his electric showings on the left wing all season long.
Parkinson, meanwhile, has used his 2.04m, 130kg frame to devastating effect in the second row and currently stands as the leading Kiwi lineout option in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman with 26 lineout takes to his name.
Losing either player would be a bitter blow for Clarke Dermody’s side, which is already without 13 players as a result of season-ending injuries.
The franchise’s extensive injury list has a raft of key players – such as Folau Fakatava (knee), Shannon Frizell (ankle), Liam Squire (knee), Jermaine Ainsley (ankle), Fetuli Paea (ankle), Thomas Umaga-Jensen (arm), Connor Garden-Bachop (hand), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (leg) and Freedom Vahaakolo (foot) – all sidelined for various periods.
New recruit Solomon Alaimalo, meanwhile, has been out of action for most of the season due to personal reasons.
However, Flutey acknowledged that their respective replacements have performed excellently, and the former England and British and Irish Lions midfielder hopes that continues at Eden Park in four days’ time.
“We’ve had injury issues right throughout our whole season,” Flutey said.
“The awesome thing is if someone comes in, they’ve being doing a really good job by keeping the standards high.”
Sam Gilbert and either Josh Dickson or Manaaki Selby-Rickit appear to be the most likely replacements for Nareki and Parkinson should either player be unavailable for the Highlanders as the Dunedin-based side chase their first title since 2015.
The Highlanders aren’t the only side faced with injury concerns this week, as the Blues may be without loose forward stars Dalton Papalii and Tom Robinson due to hip and head injuries, respectively.
Both sides will name their teams to play in this weekend’s final on Thursday.
By Alex McLeod, RugbyPass