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Highlanders return home hungry for victory

Highlanders return home hungry for victory

All BlacksMarch 15, 2024

Returning to home base, the Highlanders are looking to build on their challenging tour of Australia when taking on the Brumbies in Saturday's DHL Super Rugby Pacific game at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Coach Clarke Dermody was pleased with the Highlanders' fitness, which allowed them to absorb a 300-tackle game against the Blues and then perform well against the Waratahs.

Dermody said: "We've got a bit of momentum in our season which is cool. We've come back from a testing trip to Australia. The Blues was a heavy game for us, and then we had a pretty tight one against the Waratahs. But to be sitting with two wins after three is pleasing."

Cam Millar has been given a start at first five-eighths, with former Welsh international Rhys Patchell given a break.

"He [Patchell] has done an awesome job for us. But he's coming off an injury-plagued couple of years. He's had six games in a row for us now, so, learning from last year, if you lose your first five-eighths to overload injuries, it becomes a long season.

"Cam's been preparing for two weeks for this game and he's ready to go."

Training this week had been bolstered by the All Blacks' coaches working with the team.

"The boys have a bit more purpose about what they're doing in front of them, but they were just observing what we're doing, connecting as a coaching group with our coaches.

ICYMI - our team for Saturdays hit out against Brumbies 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Kf0pNl7dzU

— Highlanders (@Highlanders) March 13, 2024

"We talked about our players and who's doing well and who's come through the pre-season. Jason Ryan did a workship with the front rowers and that's always beneficial to hear from him."

Hooker Jack Taylor is making his starting debut for the side, and Dermody felt he was ready because of the preparation he had put in.

"He's had exposure to game time; he toured with us and was training well over there with us. He's a different hooker to both Henry [Bell] and  Ricky's [Jackson], probably a bit more mobile but fast around the field.

"When you look at the Brumbies and how they play, I think it's going to be a good game for him."

In the absence of Hugh Renton due to injury, Nikora Broughton will play No8.

Broughton played on the openside flank last week but was back in his preferred position.

Dermody said that the physicality would pick up with Tom Sanders on the blindside flank.

"He's got a game under his belt after being away from Super Rugby for a few years, so he's going to be better for that."

Martin Bogado will have his first game on the left wing for the season after arriving from Argentina a little underdone.

"He's put himself in a position with our game understanding and his fit. He's a different athlete from Jona [Nareki] and very good in the air.

"The Brumbies have got an accurate kicking game. That's how they get into the game, so we're looking to utilise him there, but it's also managing the squad."

Dermody said the Brumbies were a heavy set-piece-oriented team, but they often looked to counterattack.

"Now, they're one of the top teams for counterattack tries. So, our kicking game and our game in the air are going to be important. They run from deep, and, as we've seen, their wings are pretty lethal around the chip and choose. It's going to be a high-paced game."

Where things stand after round 3️⃣

Where is your team placed after the weekend’s action?#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/78ooyleIiQ

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) March 10, 2024

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