Highlanders named to face Blues in season opener
23 February 2023
Highlanders Head Coach Clarke Dermody has announced his first team for DHL Super Rugby Pacific 2023. As expected, it includes most of the players who took the field in the last preseason match against Moana Pasifika in Queenstown.
The forwards feature 2022 All Blacks Ethan De Groot, Shannon Frizell, and a familiar locking pair in Pari Pari Parkinson and Josh Dickson. Last season’s standout loose forward, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, will make his 38th appearance at number eight while All Black squad member Billy Harmon will captain the team.
Plenty of established and rising talent have been named within the backline with Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Josh Timu looking to cement their midfield combination and unlock the exciting back three combination of Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, and Highlander’s debutant, Jonah Lowe. The inside pairing of Folau Fakatava and Mitch Hunt will have a big influence on the game with both players having worked their way back to form after long injury breaks at the end of last year.
English international, Freddie Burns, is on track to make a home debut off the bench as will Otago halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and lock Will Tucker.
Dermody is looking forward to the season opener.
“We’ve prepared well during the offseason but there is nothing quite like the real thing and we get an opportunity to pit ourselves against one of last years finalists first up. As a team we are excited about the opportunity, especially at home with our own fans in behind us. It should be a great occasion”, said Dermody.
Before the Highlanders take the field on Saturday night, Forsyth Barr Stadium will host one of the opening round games of Sky Super Rugby Aupiki with the Matatū representing the South Island and playing their ever first home game against the Blues Women in a North v South double header (kick off at 4:45pm).
Saturday’s game also coincides with the end of the University of Otago’s O’Week which always means a great crowd – what a way to start the 2023 Super Rugby season.
Highlanders v Blues – 7:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday 25th February
- Ethan de Groot
- Rhys Marshall
- Jermaine Ainsley
- Paripari Parkinson
- Josh Dickson
- Shannon Frizell
- Billy Harmon ©
- Marino Mikaele Tu’u
- Folau Fakatava
- Mitch Hunt
- Jona Nareki
- Thomas Umaga-Jensen
- Josh Timu
- Jonah Lowe
- Sam Gilbert
Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Saula Ma'u, 19. Will Tucker, 20. Sean Withy, 21. Kemara Hauiti Parapara, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Connor Garden-Bachop
Not Available due to injury: James Arscott (knee), Marty Banks (groin), Fabian Holland (knee), Vili Koroi (knee), Fetuli Paea (calf)