Ioane flushes out Highlanders horror season

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014
TJ Ioane
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TRY SCORER: Otago's TJ Ioane.

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The Highlanders will look to "flush" a horror 2013 season beginning with a preseason game against the Brumbies in Queenstown on Friday.

Highlanders loose forward TJ Ioane said thoughts of last year's campaign, which saw the southern franchise finish second last, had to be banished.

"We are coming along really good as a team, everyone is enjoying each others' company, we are training a lot better as a team," Ioane said.

"I think we just have to flush what happened last year and just focus on what we can do this year."

Ioane burst his way into Super Rugby last season.

He was called into the Highlanders after a season-ending injury to Nasi Manu in the opening game.

After impressing off the bench he grew to be one of the struggling team's best performers.

Having survived the first phase of a preseason build-up, Ioane said life as a fully-fledged professional took some getting used to.

"It's definitely a tough introduction. Usually I leave to go back to Wellington after the [NPC], but this time I had to stay until Christmas. It mentally and physically tests you as a player - the amount of training, you spend 10 or 11 hours out there doing physically demanding training, and then there's the book work you've got to do as well."

Ioane received plenty of praise for his performances with the Highlanders last year, but is hoping to develop his lineout proficiency this season.

"It's my goal to get into the 22 week in, week out, but in saying that, there's some stiff competition."

The Highlanders met with referee Garrett Williamson yesterday.

Among the issues discussed was a move this year to place more emphasis on the second tackler to allow the tackled player to play the ball.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders will debut a new-look team against the Brumbies.

Seven of the starting XV will be pulling on the Highlanders jersey for the first time - Craig Millar, Gareth Evans, Lee Allan, Tom Franklin, Richard Buckman, Winston Stanley and Patrick Osborne.

Kane Hames, Ged Robinson, Malakai Fekitoa and Argentinian international Matias Diaz are likely to make their debuts for the franchise off the bench.

Stanley has previously played Super Rugby for the Western Force, while Buckman and Osborne have played for the Hurricanes and Chiefs, respectively.

Nasi Manu, Shane Christie, Willie Ripia and Brayden Mitchell were unavailable because of injury.

The Brumbies, beaten Super Rugby finalists last year, have named Wallaby flanker David Pocock as captain of their touring squad.

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The team will arrive in Queenstown tomorrow morning.

Friday's game will be played as four 20 minute quarters.

Highlanders: Trent Renata, Patrick Osborne, Winston Stanley, Shaun Treeby, Richard Buckman, Hayden Parker, Frae Wilson, Elliot Dixon, Lee Allan, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Jarrad Hoeata, Ma'afu Fia, Liam Coltman (captain), Craig Millar. Reserves to be confirmed.

Brumbies: Allan Alaalatoa , Fotu Auelua, Jarrad Butler, Sam Carter, Robbie Coleman, Lionel Cronje, Michael Dowsett, Matt Hawke, Conrad Hoffman, Rod Iona, Josh MannRea , Pat McCabe, Lachlan McCaffery, David Pocock, Leon Power, Clyde Rathbone, Siliva Siliva, Scott Sio, Andrew Smith, JP Smith, Michael Smith, Ruan Smith, Henry Speight, Tom Stainiforth, Haru Tetakawa, Jack Whetton, Stephan Van der Walt.

- The Southland Times

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