Unchanged line-up on the cards

Highlanders winger Jona Nareki takes a high ball at training at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday...
Highlanders winger Jona Nareki takes a high ball at training at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday after being named to play in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
No changes — pending a final test.

Winger Jona Nareki and lock Pari Pari Parkinson were both named in the Highlanders’ line-up for tomorrow’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.

It was not 100% confirmation either would run out on to Eden Park to face the Blues. Both had been nursing shoulder injuries, which would be given one last test before the final.

If they play it will mean the Highlanders take an unchanged line-up into the game from the one which beat the Brumbies 33-12 in Canberra last week.

If not, Josh Dickson and Sam Gilbert are waiting in the reserves.

Meanwhile, Manaaki Selby-Rickit and Ngane Punivai would come into the matchday 23.

However, Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody wanted to ensure Nareki and Parkinson were given every chance to pull through.

"They’ve earned that right as well," he said.

"They’ve been consistent for us in this competition, both in their own ways.

"They’ve earned the right to take a bit of extra time to make sure they’re ready to go."

The side has shown its depth all season, having suffered something of an injury curse through the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.

That left Dermody confident in the replacements’ ability to get the job done.

Injuries had become less frequent during the transtasman competition. It had enabled the team to get some consistency in its selections, which it was making use of for the final.

Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon will co-captain the side, as they have all year.

For Dixon it will double as his 100th Super Rugby match for the Highlanders.

The Highlanders beat the Blues in their last meeting, at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

However, the last time they played at Eden Park the hosts were comfortable victors.

There is rain in the forecast tomorrow night too, making quelling the big Blues forward pack even more important.

Dermody acknowledged the Blues were a strong side, although felt the Highlanders knew what to expect from them.

"The Blues are a good team — they’ve earned a home final for a reason.

"They’ve been in control of their own destiny the whole way.

"I guess the key to beating them is just to execute our gameplan.

"We know how they’re going to play. They’ve openly stated they’ve changed their tactics.

"I’m pretty sure they’re going to stick to that. I understand it’s going to be pretty wet up there.

"It’s going to be a forward game. It’s going to be won up front, so we’re preparing for that."

Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final, Auckland, tomorrow, 7.05pm

Highlanders: Josh Ioane, Sio Tomkinson, Michael Collins, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith, Kazuki Himeno, Billy Harmon, Hugh Renton, Bryn Evans, Pari Pari Parkinson, Siate Tokolahi, Ash Dixon, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Josh Hohneck, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Sam Gilbert, Teariki Ben-Nicholas.

Blues: Zarn Sullivan, Bryce Heem, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Mark Telea, Otere Black, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu (capt), Nepo Laulala, Kurt Eklund, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Ray Niuia, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Josh Goodhue, Blake Gibson, Jonathan Ruru, Harry Plummer, AJ Lam.

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