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SR18 Preview: Reds vs Highlanders {26-5-18}

The Reds and Highlanders will be determined to get their respective campaigns back on track when they face off in Brisbane this Saturday.

Both these teams head into this match with plenty to prove after losing their respective games last weekend.

The Reds gave a good account of themselves in their clash with the high-flying Hurricanes before going down 38-34 in Wellington, while the Highlanders were totally outplayed in their encounter with the Waratahs in Sydney and eventually suffered a humiliating 41-12 loss.

That latter result was a signinficant one as it means the Highlanders became the first side from New Zealand to lose against an Australian team since the Waratahs beat the Chiefs in Round 14 of 2016.

But despite that loss to the Waratahs, the Highlanders will still fancy their chances of bouncing back against the Reds as they have won seven of their last nine games in Australia – they had won just one of 15 games in the country prior to that run.

Meanwhile, the Reds have won five of their last seven games against the Highlanders, but just one of their last three – they haven’t lost back-to-back games against the men from Dunedin since 2004 and 2005.

The Reds have won four of their last five games on home turf, however, their only loss in that time came in the only one of the five against New Zealand opposition (Chiefs).

Reds head coach Brad Thorn knows his side face another stern test against a good team but takes confidence from the last time they played at home when they claimed a 27-22 win over the Lions in Round 11.

“It’s another tough challenge this weekend,” he said.

“The Highlanders are a good side and they’ll be hurting.

“We have shown we can be competitive. Now we need to take it to the next level.

“The guys are pumped to be back at home this weekend. We haven’t played in front of the Queensland faithful in four weeks and the last time we were there was a pretty special win over the Lions. We’re hoping to replicate that great atmosphere on Saturday.”

The last time the teams met: The Highlanders claimed a convincing 40-17 triumph when these sides met in a Round 17 encounter in Dunedin last year. Waisake Naholo, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Tevita Li and Ash Dixon crossed the whitewash for the Highlanders and they were also awarded a penalty try while Lima Sopoaga added four conversions. For the Reds, Izack Rodda, Alex Mafi and Caleb Timu dotted down and Quade Cooper slotted a conversion.

Team news: Reds head coach Brad Thorn has made two alterations to his starting line-up for this Super Rugby clash. In the forwards, 19-year-old lock Harry Hockings earns his run-on debut and in the back-line, Izaia Perese returns to the wing.

The match will be Hockings’ ninth in Super Rugby, after making his debut in Round Three. He has been named to start ahead of Kane Douglas, who has moved to the bench.

Perese is back in the starting side for the first time since Round 10 and takes the place of first-year flyer Filipo Daugunu, who has dropped out of the matchday 23.

The Reds have opted for a six-two split on the replacements bench, allowing the return of flanker Caleb Timu, who has recovered from an ankle injury suffered in Queensland’s Round 11 win over the Lions.

Meanwhile, All Blacks flanker Liam Squire has been named as a replacement in the Highlanders’ matchday 23.

All Blacks Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock, Shannon Frizell and Liam Coltman are not included this week but Waisake Naholo will start in his normal right wing spot while Squire returns from his round four injury to take his place on the bench, he will be accompanied by Aaron Smith and Richard Buckman, who will be making his first appearance of the season.

Lock Josh Dickson and hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate also come into the matchday 23.

An elbow injury to Elliot Dixon, sustained in last week’s game against the Waratahs, means a new look back-row. James Lentjes will play in the blindside flanker position and Marino Mikaele Tu’u earns his first run on of the season.

Teihorangi Walden returns to his midfield partnership with Rob Thompson and it will be a Highlanders’ debut for young full-back Josh McKay.

Previous results:

2017: Highlanders won 40-17 in Dunedin
2016: Reds won 28-27 in Brisbane
2015: Highlanders won 20-13 in Dunedin
2014: Reds won 38-31 in Brisbane
2013: Reds won 34-33 in Dunedin
2012: Reds won 19-13 in Brisbane
2010: Reds won 38-36 in Brisbane
2009: Highlanders won 24-19 in Invercargill

The teams:

Reds: 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith 
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Liam Wright, 22 Moses Sorovi, 23 Aidan Toua

Highlanders: 15 Josh McKay, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 James Lentjes, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Josh Dickon, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Richard Buckman

Date: Saturday, May 26
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jordan Way (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)



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