Influx of new players needed to replace those leaving

Ben Smith on the run for the Highlanders against the Hurricanes last week. Photo: Getty Images
Ben Smith on the run for the Highlanders. Photo: Getty Images
The Highlanders are losing a raft of players at the end of the year so some new cattle are  required. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn takes a look at who is in the picture.

Outside backs

Leaving (confirmed): Ben Smith, Matt Faddes, Waisake Naholo.

Come on down: Will Jordan - Tasman fullback with electric pace and try-scoring ability, is crowded out at the Crusaders; Caleb Makene - Canterbury winger who looks the goods and is dynamic; Jona Nareki - Otago winger who has scored 15 tries in 19 games for the blue and golds; Scott Gregory - young Northlander who was tipped to head south after leaving school but stayed put, has plenty of X-factor and speed.

Midfield

Leaving: Richard Buckman.

Come on down: Quinn Tupaea - solid midfielder from Waikato who has a good turn of pace; Dallas McLeod - New Zealand colt from Canterbury who has plenty of dash about him; Peter Umaga-Jensen- may look to join his brother as plenty in front of him at the Hurricanes; Michael Collins - has morphed into a fullback but may be an option to play midfield if not going overseas.

Inside backs

Leaving: Marty Banks.

Come on down: Mitch Hunt - tucked in behind Richie Mo'unga at the Crusaders so may head south to try to get more game time; Hayden Parker - will it be the second coming for the man from the Hakataramea? Unlikely.

Loose forwards

Leaving: Luke Whitelock, Liam Squire, Elliot Dixon.

Come on down: Dylan Nel - Otago No8 who has made an impression in the South; Slade McDowall - improving rapidly and Highlanders is the logical next step; Kaylum Boshier - multi-talented sportsman who is supposed to be as good as his brother; Jeriah Mua - young player from Hawke's Bay who has plenty of talent.

Locks

Leaving: Jackson Hemopo, Tom Franklin.

Come on down: Manaaki Selby-Rickit - got to get a Southland player in there somehow and is good as any; James Tucker - been floating around for a while but the Waikato man has some promise and plenty of engine although coming back from a knee injury; Scott Scrafton - in the Blues but shut out by others and possesses a good engine.

Front rowers

Leaving: Tyrel Lomax.

Come on down: Giorgio Bower - the Otago prop has made big gains in the past year and logic would suggest he should play for the Highlanders; Ricky Jackson - young Otago rake who may get the nod with question marks over the future of Ash Dixon; Marcel Renata - Auckland bookend who has clocked some impressive statistics in the Mitre 10 Cup in recent times.

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