Highlanders

Highlanders v Chiefs preview

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Queenstown Events Centre, 14.35 (02.35 GMT)

This could be brutal. It is two of the most physical teams in the tournament – yes, even when compared with the Bulls.

It is also an all-New Zealand derby, which means it is a no-holds-barred encounter.

What adds spice to this encounter is the fact that both teams are still in with a chance of reaching the play-offs.

The Highlanders, in eighth place, are just one win and a bonus point outside the top four. The Chiefs, in 11th place, have a bit more ground to make up.

However, as Chiefs coach Ian Foster rightfully pointed out this week, his team’s destiny is still in their own hands.

“With five games to go the nice thing is we’re playing teams ahead of us, so that means it’s still very controllable for us,” Forster said.

“We’re not far away, but we’ve just got to make sure we put together a few more wins now and the Highlanders will be a big game for us,” Foster said.

The same applies to the Highlanders. One defeat in the final run-in could end their hopes … simply leaving them with too much ground to make up.

This means neither team will be holding back.

It is also a game in which forward dominance will be vital. The team that controls possession will control the game.

This is a fact readily acknowledged by the Highlanders’ All Black prop Clarke Dermody, who spoke of the importance of keeping the Chiefs’ dangerous outside backs quiet by denying them the ball.

“If we give them any room up front they will punish us out wide, because they have some real strength out there,” he said.

“The Chiefs are pretty strong right across the Park.”

Don’t expect it to be pretty. But sit back and enjoy some old-fashioned grinding rugby between two truly forceful teams.

Prediction: The Highlanders have been coming along steadily after a slow start to the season. They showed against the Cheetahs last week they can still grind out wins. The Chiefs have been a bit more erratic, but just as dangerous. This is almost to close to call, but we’ll go for a Highlanders win. The Highlanders by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 James Wilson, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Matthew Saunders, 12 Aaron Bancroft, 11 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ezra Taylor, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Craig Newby (c), 5 James Ryan, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 Jason Macdonald, 17 Chris King, 18 Kane Thompson, 19 Hale T-Pole, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Charlie Hore, 22 Callum Bruce

Chiefs: 15 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Niva Ta’auso, 11 Roy Kinikinilau, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Sione Lauaki/Liam Messam, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Steven Bates, 5 Keith Robinson, 4 Kristian Ormsby, 3 Nathan White, 2 Tom Willis (c), 1 Simms Davison
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Ben Castle, 18 Jono Gibbes, 19 Liam Messam/Tanerau Latimer, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Murray Williams, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.

Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Gary Wise (New Zealand), Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Assessor: Stuart Beissel (New Zealand), Brian Kinsey (Australia)

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