Highlanders in search for a first five-eighth

Otago first five-eighth Josh Ioane was one of eight newcomers named in today's Highlanders squad...
Otago and Highlanders first five-eighth Josh Ioane. Photo: Getty Images
Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger says the side will have to nail its first-choice pivot before next season even kicks off.

With former All Black Lima Sopoaga having left the club to play in England for Wasps, the side is looking for a first five-eighth. It has already signed Otago No10 Josh Ioane and North Harbour first five-eighth Bryn Gatland for next year but has one more spot to fill.

Mauger has just finished the season review and though next season appears to be a long way away, in just over three months players will assemble and start training.

The Mitre 10 Cup provincial competition, he said, would be the testing ground to find the third first five-eighth for the Highlanders.

``We will be looking to track players, have a look at a few of them.

``First five is the main one that we are looking at. We have not made a decision there. We are pretty keen to look at the first five or six rounds and [see] who is going to put their hand up.

``Some of the young guys that come through have mature heads on them as well.

``We just need someone who is ready. We have a couple of young guys, in Josh and Bryn, who have had a taste of Super rugby but you wouldn't say they are fully proven at this level.

``So we definitely want that third 10 to compete with those boys and be at that level. It will be up to one of the three flyhalves we use during the pre-season to put their hand up and say, `I'm your man for the year'.''

Mauger said the Highlanders were also on the lookout for a lock, loose forward and prop.

``There is a lot of quality out there and we are not going to rush things. But we want to get quality and make our squad as strong as possible for next year.''

The 2019 season will start a week earlier, against the Chiefs on February 15.

The World Cup looms large for many, which Mauger saw as a positive thing as players would be wanting to do as well as possible.


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