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Opportunity knocks for players as the Highlanders get their 2018 season under way in Queenstown today.
The first game for the side in Super Rugby is only three weeks away — taking on the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium — so it will be important the Highlanders show some structure and be accurate in the resort tonight.
The side has been training for the best part of two months and training can only last so long.
Players exist to play games and will be eager to get out and test their wares against what looks like a green-looking Waratahs outfit.
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said the match was about transferring what they had done in training on to the field.
"We want to focus on playing to the structure we have been working on and the detail within that. Things have been coming together well but the true test is playing the game," Mauger said.
"I couldn’t fault the attitude of our lads ... and it is an opportunity for individuals to put their hand up and put on a good performance."
Mauger was not expecting miracles but wanted some of the "big rocks" around the team’s play firmly put in place.
"It is the first proper hit-out for the guys and we know it is not going to be perfect. But there are expectations that have been said about the game and what we want to get out of it."
The players have been roasting in the Dunedin summer since coming back from the Christmas break but have continued to train as normal.
Only seven of the starting line-up have played for the Highlanders in a competitive match so there is a green tinge to the line-up.
It will be an exciting time for the likes of Josh Ioane and Tevita Nabura in the backline while young forwards Pari Pari Parkinson and Shannon Frizell also will get their first chance in a Highlanders jersey.
Big prop Tyrel Lomax is another to watch with interest.
The Highlanders moved plenty of mountains to get the former Melbourne Rebel over this side of the ditch and he is said to have plenty of talent.
Siate Tokolahi got plenty of playing time last season but will be under pressure from Lomax and big Counties-Manukau bookend Kalolo Tuiloma.
Ben Smith last played a game in August last year so he will get back into the routine and play a rare first-up pre-season match.
Since becoming a key part of the All Blacks in 2012, Smith’s pre-season matches have been rarities.
He has been in and out of training since the Highlanders started in December and a player of his class will stamp his mark on the game.
The Highlanders travelled to Queenstown yesterday.
The Waratahs have named an inexperienced side and none of the major Wallabies are involved.
The team will be captained by hooker Damien Fitzpatrick.
The match will be played in three 30-minutes periods. Showers are forecast in Queenstown today but is expected to clear in the afternoon.
Highlanders v Waratahs
Queenstown, today, 6pm
Highlanders: Ben Smith (captain), Josh Timu, Terrance Hepetema, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Nabura, Josh Ioane, Josh Renton, Adam Knight, Dillon Hunt, Shannon Frizell, Josh Dickson, Pari Pari Parkinson, Tyrel Lomax, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Guy Millar, Kalolo Tuiloma, Siate Tokolahi, Jackson Hemopo, Kayne Hammington, Fletcher Smith, Ryan Tongia, Flynn Thomas, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Tom Franklin, Dan Pryor, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Rob Thompson, Matt Faddes, Tevita Li, Josh McKay.
Waratahs: Andrew Kellaway, Curtis Rona, Lalakai Foketi, Irae Simone, Alex Newsome, Mack Mason, Jake Gordon, Michael Wells, Will Miller, Brad Wilkin, Tom Staniforth, Nick Palmer, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Damien Fitzpatrick (captain), Paddy Ryan. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Tom Robertson, Shambeckler Vui, Ryan McCauley, Lachlan Swinton, Mitch Short, Seb Wileman, Maclean Jones, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ned Hanigan, Rory O’Connor, Kelly MeafuaReferee: Ben O’Keeffe (Wellington)