With nine changes to the Highlanders starting line-up, some Sharks fan may be forgiven for not knowing some of the opposition.
Here are some quick player profiles, before the game. These may give you some players to watch out for, come game time.
1.Jamie Mackintosh: Age 25, Super Caps 28, Height 1.92m, Weight 129kg’s
The real enforcer in the pack, a big boy who really gets about. Alot always rides on Mackintosh’s shoulders, and he rarely disappoints. Jannie and John could be in for a tough day at the office.
2.Jason Rutledge: Age 32, Super Caps 18, Height 1.82m, Weight 88kg’s
Rutledge is son of Lester, some Sharks fans may remember his Father Lester. Rutledge debut for the Highlanders back in 2004 and is the old man in the side. Provides valuable leadership when the going gets tough. Throws well.
3.Clint Newland: Age 29, Super Caps 29, Height 1.96m, Weight 130kg’s
Newland is a genuinely big tough tight head prop, he is well experienced and is comfortable at set piece time. A valuable member of a very effective Highlanders tight-five.
4.Josh Bekhuis: Age 23, Super Caps 16, Height 2.00m, Weight 111kg’s
A young player of huge potential, who people are starting to take notice of. Loves to run with the ball in hand as the game opens up. The type of player Sharks fans will appreciate.
5.Hayden Triggs: Age 28, Super Caps 29, Height 2.01m, Weight 108kg’s
Triggs has big shoes to fill in replacing the injured All Black Donnelly. Rugged, fiery character.
6.John Hardie: Age 21, Super Caps 4, Height 1.83m, Weight 97kg’s
Very young and in his first season of Super Rugby. Proved his mobility in South Africa. Has a great engine.
7.Alando Soakai: Age 26, Super Caps 36, Height 1.82m, Weight 103kg’s
Is a really dynamic open side who seems to be to grips with the new interpretations as he is not regularly falling foul. A well experienced Highlander. On his home ground, expect a big one from him. Provides valuable leadership.
8.Adam Thomson: Age 28, Super Caps 31, Height 1.96m, Weight 112kg’s
Thomson is a real eye catching player. An amazing runner with ball in hand, our version of Kanko. Spent time in the NZ Sevens team. Puts absolutely everything on the line. When he is playing well, others follow.
9.Jimmy Cowan: Age 28, Super Caps 71, Height 1.86m, Weight 95kg’s
The most experienced Highlander, also boasts over 30 Test caps. Most Sharks fans will be familiar with him. Never takes a backward step, Muller will have trouble keeping up with him, when it comes to reffing the ref’s.
10.Robbie Robinson: Age 20, Super Caps 0, Height 1.81m, Weight 84kg’s
Our Lambie, debutant this weekend. A real unknown quantity at this level. Let’s hope he copes. One to watch.
11.James Paterson: Age 22, Super Caps 3, Height 1.85m, Weight 98kg’s
Has a really interesting rugby background. Played most of his rugby in the USA, representing them at age group levels. Plays like a running back. A raw recruit finding his feet.
12.Micheal Hobbs: Age 22, Super Caps 13, Height 1.87m, Weight 90kg’s
The NZRFU Chairman’s son. Has been the find of the season but not at inside centre. Has a real ‘give it a crack’ mentality on the field. Doesn’t die wondering.
13.Kendrick Lynn: Age 29, Super Caps 12, Height 1.82m, Weight 92kg’s
A utility back. Quick and pops up on shoulders all around the field. Free flowing attacking player.
14.Ben Smith: Age 23, Super Caps 17, Height 1.82m, Weight 88kg’s
2009 All Black to Europe. Steady, error free, modern day, back three player. Equally comfortable at fullback, kicks in general play well.
15.Isreal Dagg: Age 21, Super Caps 18, Height 1.82m, Weight 88kg’s
An All Black in waiting. A genuine talent, bulletproof, has a go where others fear to tread. Game breaker. Match winner.
In summary, when I look at the selection of this Highlanders side two things become apparent. Firstly the side will not be overly fatigued, with most having game time off in recent weeks. This is obviously a ploy to overcome the travel factor and to shake things up in a squad that does not have ’15 Stars’.
Secondly, no ones reputation or career will be over if they try something and it doesn’t come off. This is a really attacking, young, care free, Highlander’s side. If I was Plum, I would be expecting the unexpected.
In a nut shell regardless of weather conditions expect this Highlander’s side to attack from everywhere (do not expect the percentages). They will without doubt play high octane , high tempo rugby.
My verdict is that if they start well, and let’s remember they conceded the fastest bonus point in history (about 24 minutes) last weekend against the Bulls, they will be a force in the match. Don’t expect them to fade away.
One thing is for sure, Sharks fans will be entertained, enjoy ………..‘The House of Pain’.Tweet