Bench picked in anticipation of bad weather

Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty Images
Aaron Mauger. Photo: Getty Images
There was a time when the Highlanders loved a good tussle in the mud.

Not so these days. The team has been spoilt by playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The conditions they will find in Invercargill for their final round-robin match against the Waratahs tomorrow night will be quite foreign.

It is expected to be wet underfoot and, with that in mind, coach Aaron Mauger has filled the bench with forwards in anticipation of a dire struggle up front.

"The ball is going to be wet so we are certainly going to have to make sure we get the job done up front,'' he said.

"We've spoken about the mindset required to play wet-weather footy in the cold.

"Obviously, we have the luxury of playing under the roof which dictates a different sort of game.''

The Highlanders need to win well and hope other results go their way if they are going to sneak into the playoffs.

They will be without talisman Ben Smith.

The outside back has lost his battle to be fit and may have played his last game for the Highlanders.

He is bound for France and will leave New Zealand rugby after the World Cup.

But Mauger can lean on hooker Liam Coltman.

He will become the sixth Highlander to play 100 Super Rugby games for the franchise.

Coltman has missed only one game this year and has been in outstanding form.

Prop Daniel Lienert-Brown and loose forward Elliot Dixon will form part of a bench featuring six forwards, while midfielder Tei Walden returns to the starting line up.

The Waratahs will field a team missing five leading Wallabies players.

Captain Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Rob Simmons and Sekope Kepu are not making the trip to Invercargill.

They will instead serve their second mandatory Rugby Australia-enforced rest
week.

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