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Ethan de Groot Eyes First Win Over Hurricanes in Milestone 50th Game

Ethan de Groot Eyes First Win Over Hurricanes in Milestone 50th Game

All BlacksMay 30, 2024

Highlanders co-captain and All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot has never been part of a winning team over the Hurricanes, and Saturday's Super Rugby Pacific contest in Wellington would be a welcome present for his 50th game for the Southerners.

Coach Clarke Dermody said achieving both milestones was something de Groot was motivated to see the Highlanders do.

"He epitomises the values of what the Highlanders are being from Gore."

The last five weeks have given the Highlanders some momentum.

"The way we're playing, and the way the boys are able to stay the plan which we weren't doing through the middle of the season, and we acknowledge it's going to be a big test against the Hurricanes who are trying to finish top of the table. It's a good test to see where our game is at leading into what's coming up."

Dermody said the team's earlier loss to the Hurricanes had rocked it, but after losing a few games in a row, they had turned their performances around and gained some confidence.

He said the team selected for Saturday was based on giving players a chance to rest before taking on the quarterfinals next week.

"It's going to be important in the longer run and gives us an opportunity to get guys ready for the playoffs."

First five-eighths Cameron Miller, who suffered loosened teeth against the Blues, has been given another week to allow them to settle.

SQUAD | Your Highlanders to take on @hurricanesrugby for super rugby round #15 . With a play off spot confirmed, we’ve named a team with some fresh legs 🔥
Read more here -https://t.co/O3uTxwkaF8 pic.twitter.com/TwcIqOiMWD

— Highlanders (@Highlanders) May 29, 2024

There is a prospective debut for the side's Community Award winner named earlier in the week, loose forward Hayden Michaels.

It had been hard for Michaels to force his way into the side as a loose forward behind captain Billy Harmon and Sean Withy.

"He's been awesome around the group, turning up and trying to get better every day. You could see in the team naming what it meant to the boys for him to get his opportunity because of what he's done to better the team this year. He's a physical player and that's what we'll need against the Hurricanes."

Matt Whaanga's inclusion at centre is his chance to stake a playoff berth. A shoulder injury midway through the season limited his opportunities, but he has returned and impressed with his recent training.

Finn Hurley has been given the start at fullback, his first of the season, and Dermody said that was partly due to a view to next season.

"We've had the opportunity to put Connor [Garden-Bachop] and Jona [Nareki] with Finn, so he's got some experience with him in the backfield. Everyone's excited about where Finn can take his game, and this is a big game for him to test that.

"We see a big future for him. The speed of the game, and the physicality, is a bit different the further up the levels you go, but, he's not deterred by that. He is pretty fearless, and what we enjoy is he plays what he sees."

Lock Mitch Dunshea has been rested after a heavy workload since returning from injury with Will Tucker, who is also returning from injury and being given a start.

"Heading into the next few weeks, it's important that that position is deep."

EVERYTHING on the line in the final regular season round of #SuperRugbyPacific! 💪

Which match up are you looking forward to most? pic.twitter.com/4SBRQBOWDQ

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 28, 2024

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