No Bender for Highlanders must-win match
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: All Blacks legend Ben Smith has been ruled out of the Highlanders’ must-win Super Rugby match against the Waratahs.
The fullback strained his hamstring last month during his side’s 31-all draw with the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin and was expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks, ruling him out of the remainder of the Super Rugby regular season.
However, promising progress in his recovery gave the Highlanders coaching staff hope that the departing All Black would return in time for this week’s clash at Rugby Park, but he remains absent from the matchday squad.
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In a statement Head Coach, Aaron Mauger, said, “Ben worked extremely hard to be available for his team this week, unfortunately, he is still a little short of being match ready”.
Stalwart Liam Coltman will play his 100th game for the club when he takes the field against the Waratahs. Coltman who has only missed one game this year has been in outstanding form all season and was recently voted player of the year at the club’s awards.
Elsewhere, outgoing loose forward Elliot Dixon is given the chance to farewell his home crowd in Southland as he replaces midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen, giving the Highlanders a six forwards, two backs split in the reserves.
Highlanders: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Elliot Dixon.
Date: Friday, June 14
Venue: Rugby Park, Invercargill
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT, 17.35 Australian time)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), James Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Liam Coltman will run out for his 100th Super Rugby match!
— Pulse Energy Highlanders (@Highlanders) June 12, 2019