De Groot to lead Highlanders in first Trans-Tasman clash

6 March 2024


Ethan de Groot will lead out the Highlanders for the first time on Friday night when they face the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium, Sydney. Head Coach, Clarke Dermody, was confident in de Groot’s ability to get the job done, “Ethan’s a real team man and a leader and we know that he’ll take the additional responsibility in his stride on Friday night with Sam [Gilbert] there to lend a hand.”


The most significant change can be seen in the loose forwards, with Tom Sanders set to make his Highlanders debut and earn his 47th cap after stints for both the Chiefs and Crusaders before his time with Suntory in Japan. Nikora Broughton also earns his first start while powerhouse Hugh Renton retains his spot at the back of the scrum.


The backline maintains its consistency for this game with the pairing of Rhys Patchell and Folau Fakatava proving fruitful in the previous two fixtures. The reserve halfback sees a change with James Arscott replacing Nathan Hastie, while young first five Ajay Faleafaga retains his spot on the bench alongside utility back Jonah Lowe.


“We were disappointed with how we finished on Friday night, and we’ve been working hard to channel disappointment into fuel for this game. We’re determined to secure a win, not only for ourselves but for our fans who have been so supportive of this new Highlanders team. We want to do it for them too”, remarked Dermody.


Highlanders v Waratahs – 7:35pm AEST (9:35pm NZT), Friday 8th March, ALLIANZ Stadium, Sydney

  1. Ethan de Groot (C)
  2. Henry Bell
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Fabian Holland
  5. Max Hicks
  6. Tom Sanders
  7. Nikora Broughton
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Rhys Patchell
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert (VC)
  13. Tanielu Tele’a
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens


  1. Ricky Jackson
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Sean Withy
  5. Billy Harmon
  6. James Arscott
  7. Ajay Faleafaga
  8. Jonah Lowe

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