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Highlanders to play Rebels in must-win Dunedin clash

18 May 2023


The Highlanders are back at home for two important games over the next two weeks. First up are the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday afternoon. 

Aaron Smith, Sam Gilbert and Jonah Lowe return to the starting XV for this crucial fixture. Smith sat out last week’s loss to the Brumbies (All Black rest) and will no doubt inject his usual enthusiasm and competitiveness he is well known for. Sam Gilbert again moves to the midfield, combining with Fetuli Paea, which provides another opportunity for Connor Garden-Bachop at fullback and on the back of a solid game-controlling effort last week, Freddie Burns, will again pilot the team at first-five.

The well performed front row of Ethan de Groot, Andrew Makalio and Jermaine Ainsley are reunited and Shannon Frizell will again play lock after a couple of strong performances in that role. Will Tucker returns from concussion to replace the injured Josh Dickson and Sean Withy swaps his position on the bench with James Lentjes.

The experienced trio of Folau Fakatava, Mitch Hunt and Thomas Umaga-Jensen make up the back reserves with Mitch Hunt set to play his 50th game for the Highlanders (95th Super Rugby game) should he take the field.


Highlander v Rebels – 4:35pm, Saturday 20th May, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Andrew Makalio
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Shannon Frizell
  5. Will Tucker
  6. Sean Withy
  7. Billy Harmon (C)
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Freddie Burns
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert
  13. Fetuli Paea
  14. Jonah Lowe
  15. Connor Garden-Bachop

Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown 18. Saula Ma’u 19. Marino Mikaele-Tu'u 20. James Lentjes 21. Folau Fakatava 22. Mitch Hunt 23. Thomas Umaga-Jensen

Not Available due to injury: Vili Koroi (knee) Marty Banks (groin) Jeff Thwaites (back) Josh Timu (leg) Jake Te Hiwi (ankle) Cameron Millar (ankle) Fabian Holland (hamstring) Josh Dickson (concussion)  Pari Pari Parkinson (illness)




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