Super Rugby 2019 kicks off with what should be an absolute doozy of a New Zealand derby with Brodie Retallick’s Chiefs meeting the Highlanders co-captained by All Blacks Ben Smith and Luke Whitelock.
The Chiefs and Highlanders have named their matchday squads giving us a sneak peak at the match-ups that could prove critical to the result of the opening fixture of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
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Both sides have fielded a young flyhalf with the Chiefs giving Orbyn Leger his debut while Josh Ioane gets first crack at filling the massive boots of Lima Sopoaga. The Chiefs have an insurance policy or sorts on the bench in the form of veteran flyhalf Stephen Donald.
Leger will have the luxury of the experience of Anton Lienert-Brown outside of him at inside centre for the Chiefs while the Highlanders have chosen to blood Thomas Umaga-Jensen in a new look centre partnership with Rob Thompson.
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The Highlanders have left a pair of All Black loose forwards on the bench with fetcher Jimmy Lentjes and man mountain Jackson Hemopo completing a large loose trio rounded off by co-skipper Whitelock, who comes in at a petite 203cm and 115 kgs.
Tyler Ardron lends experience to the Chiefs back row comepleted by young flankers Lachlan Boshier and Mitchell Brown who provides Nathan Harris with an extra lineout target.
Critically the Chiefs are without Damian Mckenzie and come up against a Highlanders unit with a trio of highly experienced outside backs in Smith, Matt Faddes and Tevita Li. The Chiefs have 19-year-old Sevens star Etene Nanai-Seturo his 20-year-old Sevens teammate Bailyn Sullivan and 22-year-old fullback Shaun Stevenson.
Up front though the Chiefs may hold the edge with a front row who have all enjoyed time in the All Black squad packing down in front of Retallick and journeyman lock Michael Allardice.
All Black Liam Coltman provides much needed experience up front alongside young props Tyrel Lomax and Ayden Johnstone for the Highlanders. Coltman will also need to strike up a working relationship with lock pairing Josh Dickson and Pari Pari Parkinson though if things go awry he will always have Whitelock as an option.
Chiefs vs Highlanders matchday Super Rugby squads
Chiefs XV: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Orbyn Leger, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (c), 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Ataata Moeakiola
Highlanders XV: 15 Ben Smith (cc), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (cc), 7 Jimmy Lentjes, 6 Jackson Hemopo, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Shannon Frizell, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Patelesio Tomkinson
Match venue: FMG Stadium Waikato
Date: 15 February 2019
Time: 08:35 SAST
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