Renton injury leaves side in awkward spot

Hugh Renton. Photo: Getty Images
Hugh Renton. Photo: Getty Images
What was the one thing the Highlanders were desperate to avoid this year?


They are not remotely near the farcical casualty levels they experienced early last season, when more than 20 players were sidelined at one point, but they have suffered a big blow.

Outstanding No 8 Hugh Renton has been ruled out for four to six weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain in the 23-21 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night.

Renton took immense strides in 2023 as he usurped Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, who has since headed overseas, and he has continued that sparkling form this season.

His workrate, defensive efficiency and rugged ball-carrying have featured as the Highlanders have started with two wins from their three games.

Renton is not easily replaced, either.

The only other genuine No 8 in the Highlanders squad is Nikora Broughton — and he is still relatively raw.

Broughton played just two games of Super Rugby last year, though is fresh off an unexpected start at openside in Sydney.

Another option is Will Stodart, a late addition to the squad.

He is talented but he is also just 20, has extremely limited experience and is not even a specialist No 8.

A wildcard could be Billy Harmon — reinstated as captain after being benched for the Waratahs game for missing a meeting — moving from his regular openside spot to No 8, where he can offer plenty of mobility.

Sean Withy would then move across to openside, leaving Tom Sanders or Oliver Haig to wear the No 6 jersey.

All will be revealed when the Highlanders announce their team today to play the Brumbies on Saturday.

Pari Pari Parkinson will return to the second row if he has recovered from his knee complaint, while there might be a temptation to give Argentine winger Martin Bogado a run in place of Jona Nareki.

Experienced locks Mitch Dunshea and Will Tucker and centre Josh Timu are the other Highlanders on lengthy injury breaks.