Highlanders wary of ‘hurting’ Moana Pasifika
Restored to more like better health, the Highlanders have given their loose forwards who have carried them through their last two DHL Super Rugby Pacific games the honour of starting Friday's game with Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart in Auckland.
Coach Clarke Dermody said flanker Sean Withey and No8 Hugh Renton deserved their starting positions. It was a chance to create competition for positions and impact off the bench from All Black Shannon Frizell and Marino Makaele-Tu'u.
Thomas Umaga-Jensen has also recovered from the hip issue he had last week and will start in the 12 jersey opposite Moana Pasifika dynamo Danny Toala.
Dermody said it was important to understand Moana Pasifika would be hurting from their loss to the Hurricanes last weekend.
"They are better than that. They pushed the Brumbies [playing] away so we've been analysing that game quite closely, not so much the Hurricanes one. They're a very proud team and it is our first game at Mt Smart as a Highlanders team."
Captain and flanker Billy Harmon said the week was much more enjoyable after such a big win over the Fijian Drua.
"But for us, it's just about keeping that ball rolling, keeping that momentum, so we've got to reset. We can't just rely on last week's performance so it's about us going back to the drawing board, reapplying everything and going again."
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Harmon said what was pleasing from last week was the improvement in the lineout performance and turning around the turnovers which had plagued the side.
"When you compare that [the turnovers] to the first couple of rounds, it's light years ahead, and that allowed us to play our game in the right parts of the field.
"If we can execute well, if we can hold onto the ball we can play in the right parts of the field."
The performance and depth of the side's loose forwards had seen them through the injury issues, with Withey and Renton having been the best-performing loosies of the season so far.
Moana Pasifika will start with the Hawke's Bay combination of halfback Ereatara Enari and first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie this week, while back in the side are wing Timoci Tavatavanawai and second five-eighths Danny Toala.
In the pack, prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth returns and loose forward Michael Curry will lock the scrum upon returning from a neck injury. Miracle Faiilagi will again play on the blindside flank, having impressed during the side's tour, and will be joined by openside flanker and former Samoa Sevens star Alamanda Motuga.
Round six kicks off when Moana Pasifika hosts the Highlanders at Mount Smart Stadium at 7.05pm on Friday 31 March.
Round six at our fale ✊🏽— Moana Pasifika Rugby (@MoanaPasifika_) March 29, 2023
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