Joseph aiming for a pre/new season balance

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014
Jamie Joseph
Getty Images
STARTING POINT: Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has lost a lot of experienced players.

Relevant offers

Super Rugby

An eager Charlie Ngatai plays 80 minutes in Waikato club rugby as Hautapu stay top The unluckiest Chiefs player has a plan to combat long-running concussion battle Unique memories for Robertson as Crusaders aim to keep unbeaten streak alive Jonathan Taumateine to start at halfback for Chiefs against Sunwolves, with Richard Judd brought in Australian rugby has 'major player development problem': Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson Kiwi coach Daryl Gibson has Waratahs' board's 'full support' despite Super Rugby struggles Six match Super Rugby ban for Sharks centre Andre Esterhuizen Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie cops three-week ban for 'reckless' stamping on opponent's head Richie Mo'unga tests pain threshold and patience as Crusaders prepare for Cheetahs Daryl Gibson has 'got to go' after woeful Waratahs loss: ex-Wallabies coach Alan Jones

The Highlanders take on the Waratahs in Newcastle tonight in a game that is part dress rehearsal, part trial.

Coach Jamie Joseph has tried to strike a balance between giving squad members a chance to push for a starting spot in the season opener against the Blues and putting together the combinations that give him the best chance of winning games during the season proper.

Joseph has to decide who will steer his team in the home game against the Blues on March 2, with Lima Sopoaga, Willie Ripia and Hayden Parker all getting opportunities during the pre-season.

The front row is a work in progress, while there are also five contracted locks and two spots available.

The loose forward situation has been complicated by injuries, with Elliot Dixon (hamstring) and Nasi Manu (pectoral) missing this week.

Tasman captain Shane Christie gets his first chance to impress after overcoming a knee injury.

Joseph has been keen to give everyone a chance during the pre-season, which includes a win over the Brumbies and a loss to the Crusaders to date.

"Where possible we've tried to do that, but we've been affected by injuries. One of the things we didn't want to do was go to Australia and risk those players for competition games."

The Highlanders are still assessing their resources after losing Buxton Popoali'i for the season with a heart condition.

With outside backs Trent Renata and Richard Buckman already promoted from the wider training group, the Highlanders could look at covering for their injury-prone loose forwards or bolster their front-row stocks after initially signing only five props for the season.

Tonight's game will also give the few rookies in the Highlanders squad a chance to test their travelling ability.

"All the guys who haven't been in the mix are getting a trip away with us, and that's important. It's all very well to jump on a plane and fly to Motueka, but this is taking it to another level," Joseph said.

"We are flying to Sydney, bussing to Newcastle and then expecting [them] to perform. It's great experience for those guys."

HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith (c), Patrick Osborne, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Kurt Baker, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Shane Christie, John Hardie, Gareth Evans, Josh Bekhuis, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Ged Robinson, Kane Hames. Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Matias Diaz, Craig Millar, Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin, TJ Ioane, Lee Allan, Frae Wilson, Hayden Parker, Phil Burleigh, Winston Stanley, Richard Buckman.

Ad Feedback

- The Southland Times

Special offers
Opinion poll

Which 2015 NZ Super Rugby team looks best?

Blues

Chiefs

Crusaders

Highlanders

Hurricanes

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content