14 February 2024

The Highlanders have included All Black, Ethan de Groot, for this week’s pre-season clash set to take place in Methven. This Friday’s match will see the Highlanders take on the Crusaders, who are coming off a two-week Northern Hemisphere tour and marks the traditional pre-season encounter between the two teams, offering regional Super Rugby fans an up-close experience. Previous editions of this fixture have been hosted in various locations including Waimumu, Wanaka, Weston, Darfield, and now Methven.


This third and final pre-season match for the Highlanders of 2024, sees the return of Ethan de Groot from his rest period with the All Blacks. De Groot is eager to re-join his teammates on the field this weekend, stating, “I’ve never been one to sit on the side-lines. Watching the lads play over the last two weeks has left me feeling excited for the upcoming Super Rugby season. I’m ready to get back out there, run alongside some of the newer lads, and test the lungs against the Crusaders this Friday.”


Having emerged as a key figure within the Highlanders squad over the past couple of seasons, despite being only 25 years old, Ethan de Groot is considered a senior player and leader within the team.


Forwards Coach Tom Donnelly expressed his excitement about de Groot's return to the front row, saying, “Ethan has evolved into a formidable presence in the front row, and we’re looking forward to having him back in the starting XV. I am pleased with the progress our forwards have made during the pre-season, and adding a quality scrummager like Ethan to the mix will undoubtedly bolster the team.”


Cam Millar is set to start at first-five this week, while Sam Gilbert and Tanielu Tele’a will form a midfield partnership for the first time as the coaching team continues to explore new combinations ahead of the season opener. This Friday’s fixture presents the final opportunity for players to make their mark before the start of the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Season, which is less than two weeks away (Round 1: Highlanders. V Moana Pasifika – 7:05pm, Saturday 24th February, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin).

Pre-season 3: Crusaders v Highlanders – Friday 16th February, Methven Recreational Reserve, Canterbury

  1. Ethan de Groot
  2. Henry Bell
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Max Hicks
  5. Fabian Holland
  6. Sean Withy
  7. Billy Harmon (C)
  8. Hugh Renton
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Cam Millar
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert (VC)
  13. Tanielu Tele’a
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens


  1. Jack Taylor
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Oliver Haig
  5. Nikora Broughton
  6. Nathan Hastie
  7. Rhys Patchell
  8. Jonah Lowe
  9. Martín Bogado
  10. Ayden Johnstone
  11. Ajay Faleafaga
  12. Hugo Plummer
  13. Jake Te Hiwi

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