'They got punished' - Brown on pair returning for Chiefs game

Sio Tomkinson trains with the Highlanders last week. Photo: Getty Images
Sio Tomkinson returns for the Highlanders. Photo: Getty Images
Injuries and injecting some energy into the side have led to changes in a winning team for the Highlanders.

Two of the six players who missed last week because of dropping below team standards have been called back into the match-day squad and they should be physically fitter for their week off.

Coming off one of the side’s best performances for years, a record 33-12 win over the Crusaders last Friday night, the Highlanders should take some confidence into the match against the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow night.

Halfback Folau Fakatava is gone for the season after ripping his ACL in his right knee. He is replaced by co-captain Aaron Smith while Kayne Hammington comes into the reserves.

Fakatava suffered the injury when he was side-stepping around a ruck and was not touched by anyone.

Ngatungane Punivai is back on the right wing having overcome a hamstring injury. Scott Gregory had a fine game on the right wing last week and is rewarded by being moved to second five-eighth.

Highlanders coach Tony Brown said Gregory liked to play in the midfield and his physical edge and skill-set would be an asset against the Chiefs. Thomas Umaga-Jensen played in the midfield last week but broke his arm towards the end of the game and is out for the season.

Sio Tomkinson, one of the six players dropped last week, has come back into the team and will start at centre.

Brown said the players had completed their punishment and what had happened was in the past.

"They got punished, don’t worry about that. They had to do a bit of extra fitness but most of the guys who don’t make the 23 have to do that extra bit of work to keep their fitness up," Brown said.

Another offender in Josh Ioane will come off the bench.

Sione Misiloi and Teariki Ben-Nicholas, who were also punished for their tardiness, will both play for Harbour tomorrow while No8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u may play for Alhambra-Union. The other player who was punished, Daniel Lienert-Brown, is injured and unavailable.

In the forward pack, James Lentjes comes into the side replacing Billy Harmon, who impressed against the Crusaders.

Brown is looking forward to getting Lentjes on the paddock, his energy and leadership being valuable for the side. Prop Josh Hohneck starts on the tighthead side, swapping places with Siate Tokolahi.

The Chiefs will start Kaylum Boshier on the openside flank in place of the injured Sam Cane. His older brother, Lachlan, is coming back from a foot injury and it was felt he would not last the game under the roof. Mitch Karpik has been ill during the week.

Brad Weber will captain the side while blindside flanker Mitch Brown will play his 50th game for the Chiefs.

Highlanders v Chiefs

Forsyth Barr Stadium, tomorrow, 7.05pm
Highlanders: Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngatungane Punivai, Sio Tomkinson, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (co-c), Kazuki Himeno, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Bryn Evans, Josh Hohneck, Ash Dixon (co-captain), Ethan De Groot. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Billy Harmon, Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Hugh Renton.

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Jonah Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Kaleb Trask, Brad Weber (c), Luke Jacobson, Kaylum Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, Joe Apikotoa, Samipeni Finau, Pita Gus Sowakula, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Alex Nankivell, Shaun Stevenson.

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