Hertford Highlander

Kiwi Super 15 Pre-Season Preview – The Highlanders


Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, Super Rugby on 10 Jan 2011 at 05:47
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There will be high hopes that new coach Jamie Joseph will be able to work some magic in his first year at the helm of the Highlanders. However it will be a big ask for the Southerner’s to graduate out of their Conference and qualify for the final six of the Investec Super rugby play-offs in 2011.

The Highlander’s have finished the lowest of all the New Zealand franchises for the last six seasons. However with the Highlanders not making the top four since 2002, they have been competitive in recent seasons, with close losses being a recent frustration to their loyal fan base. On paper the southern franchises results have not looked bad. Last year their highlights included travelling to the Republic and beating the Cheetahs as well as putting 35 points past the Champion Bulls at Loftus. They then returned home to beat eventual Semi Finalist’s the Waratahs. These performances were coupled with close losses to the Hurricanes, and Reds (by two points), Blues (four points), and Chiefs (six points), these types of results have been common place in recent seasons with 2009 providing further evidence with seven of their nine losses being by less than eight points. However, even with all this in mind Joseph and his team will be looking to turn around the franchises fortunes and quickly.

Joseph’s first mission was to compile a squad. The final product is a Joseph squad that looks radically different from the one last year. This is due to the introduction of 15 new faces arguably the biggest overhaul of any super side this season.

The new faces comprise an interesting collection of exciting youngsters that are complemented by some genuine experience. With the final verdict from commentators being that the 2011 Highlanders look well balanced and should prove to be tough opposition to plan against with so much unknown of their potential combinations.

This year the Highlander’s will be lead by new skipper Jamie Mackintosh who is joined by other experienced Super players in the form of Jason Rutledge, Mo Schwagler, Adam Thompson, Alando Soakai, Chris King, Tom Donnelly, Josh Bekhuis, Jimmy Cowan, Matt Saunders, Ben Smith and Kenny Lynn.

The youngsters making the squad include Robbie Robinson, Kurt Baker, Lima Sopoanga, Sean Treeby, Talusa Veainu, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, John Hardie and Brayden Mitchell who are all bound to get opportunities to stake their claims as professional rugby players at the highest level.

There has also been three key signings that should provide some additional steel up front as well as providing an x-factor that may just be the difference in turning close losses into narrow wins. The arrival of Manawatu captain Nick Crosswell will bolster what is already a strong loose forward mix and Taranaki’s Jarrod Hoeta is a tough uncompromising lock, loose forward who impressed during the NZ Maori campaign early in the year. The marquee signing however is star fly half and goal kicker Colin Slade from the Crusaders who is bound to provide some much needed class to the Highlanders back division. Slade is widely thought of as Daniel Carter’s back up for this year’s RWC and will be given every opportunity to push his case throughout the Super season.

The Highlanders may be some way of the halcyon days of the late 1990’s when the franchise featured in four semi finals including a loss in the final. Then that playing roster boasted the likes of All Blacks Josh Kronfeld, Taine Randall, Isitolo Maka, Byron Kelleher, Tony Brown, Jeff Wilson, Pita Alatini and Samoan hit man Brian Lima.

While the 2011 squad may not boast the double figure contingent of capped All Blacks that the other four New Zealand teams do, it is still a capable squad.

Seven players have played at test level (including Samoan Mahonri Schwagler) that will ensure that the Highlanders have a strong spine, especially up front – with Mackintosh, Tom Donnelly and Adam Thomson the key men, back up will be provided from Rutledge, Crosswell, Hoeta and Otago captain Soakai which will make the Highlanders as good as any pack (barring the Crusaders) in the competition. Behind the scrum the All Black combination of Cowan and Slade will be the key to setting the Highlanders on their way in the competition.

The squad is also ably supported by the strongest wider training group of any of the New Zealand teams, featuring the likes of Tim Boys, Ben Atiga, Scott Cowan and Fetu’u Vainikolo.

So it is with great anticipation that we await the start of the Super season, the development of the new Forsyth Barr roofed Stadium in Dunedin providing an exciting backdrop to what looms as an interesting season and future for the Southerner’s.

Highlanders Wider Training Group

Sam Anderson-Heather, Ben Atiga, Tim Boys, Liam Coltman, Glen Horton, Alex Ryan, Fetu’u Vainikolo

Highlanders Full Squad

Fullbacks: Kurt Baker

Wingers: James Paterson, Ben Smith, Telusa Veainu

Midfield: Kendrick Lynn, Siale Piutau, Matt Saunders, Shaun Treeby

First five-eigths: Robbie Robinson, Colin Slade, Lima Sopoaga

Halfbacks: Jimmy Cowan, Sean Romans, Aaron Smith

Loose forwards: Nick Crosswell, Elliot Dixon, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, Nasi Manu, Alando Soakai, Adam Thomson

Locks: Josh Bekhuis, Tom Donnelly, Joe Tuineau

Props: Halani Aulika, Chris King, Jamie McIntosh, Bronson Murray, David Te Moana

Hookers: Brayden Mitchell, Jason Rutledge, Mahonri Schwalger

Highlanders Super Record

1998 Highlander’s losing Semi-Finalist
1999 Highlander’s lost to the Crusaders 19-24 in the Final – 1999 Runner Up
2000 Highlander’s losing Semi- Finalist
2002 Highlander’s losing Semi- Finalist



20 Comments

  • Thanx for the review HH.

    There are a lot of youngsters in this squad!

    And you seem a little light in the back three department.

  • Comment 1, posted at 10.01.11 08:08:03 by Richard Ferguson (KCM) Reply
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  • would love for them to outplay their kiwi counterparts as its the same few teams every year that have a realistic chance of victory, just can’t see them doing it unfortunately

  • Comment 2, posted at 10.01.11 08:15:26 by RuckingFun Reply

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  • Do the sharks play the highlanders?

  • Comment 3, posted at 10.01.11 08:44:34 by bergshark Reply

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  • @bergshark (Comment 3) :

    No we don’t

  • Comment 4, posted at 10.01.11 08:49:42 by Richard Ferguson (KCM) Reply
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  • I hope the Highlanders can cause a couple of upsets in the NZ conference cause the Cheetah’s are bound to beat a couple of SA teams along the way.

  • Comment 5, posted at 10.01.11 09:14:42 by Pokkel Reply
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  • I have to say that I rate the Cheetahs team in this year’s Super Rugby competition. They always do well against SA teams.

  • Comment 6, posted at 10.01.11 09:21:42 by Richard Ferguson (KCM) Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 5) :

    If Mitchell can get the Lions going is there a chance only the winner will get out of the SA Conference ! :shock:

  • Comment 7, posted at 10.01.11 09:23:35 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (KCM) (Comment 6) : I’ll bet that the Cheetah’s won’t win a single game against foreign opposition but are likely to win a couple of games against the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls

  • Comment 8, posted at 10.01.11 09:23:52 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 7) : Very possible…The SA teams love stuffing each other up. That is part of the reason I don’t like the new format. In a SA derby ANYTHING can happen.

  • Comment 9, posted at 10.01.11 09:25:45 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 7) : And I bet most injuries will come from the derby’s as well.

  • Comment 10, posted at 10.01.11 09:26:56 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 8) :

    I wont bet against you on that..

  • Comment 11, posted at 10.01.11 09:30:17 by Richard Ferguson (KCM) Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 7) :

    That’s not unlikely..

  • Comment 12, posted at 10.01.11 09:30:53 by Richard Ferguson (KCM) Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 9) : We must remember a derby is a derby and everyone in all conferences will be competitive under this new format especially in RWC year.

    With the Rebels being potentially weak this year, I think there is a chance the Tah, Reds and potentially one other may get out of the Aussie Conference ! :twisted:

  • Comment 13, posted at 10.01.11 09:33:18 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 13) :

    At the expense of a South African team?

  • Comment 14, posted at 10.01.11 09:36:38 by Richard Ferguson (KCM) Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (KCM) (Comment 14) : of course

  • Comment 15, posted at 10.01.11 10:23:44 by robdylan Reply
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  • @The Highlanders use to supply the ABs with so many good players in the past. I know you’ve listed a few and Carl Hayman, Carl Hoft, Ant Oliver, Kees Meeuws and Nick Evans are just some of the other stand out players. So what’s happened? Is it finances that have brought the franchise to its knees in last 10 years or so.
    Also really sad to see big Clint Newland no longer in the mix. Even in tough times, the Highlanders have never lost their identity as a good scrumming outfit. I hope they can at least keep this tradition going.
    Vainikolo is evidence of just how tough it is at the top. A couple of years back, he was on fire.
    Hertford Highlander (Comment 13) :

  • Comment 16, posted at 10.01.11 10:36:43 by beet Reply
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  • Highlanders will struggle again . . .

    But I`m worried about us as well.

    Last years` dismal performance still haunts me.
    Yes there were some dubious decisions that went against us but bottom line is we were just not good enough.

    It`ll be a bum fight between us and the DHL delivery guys !

  • Comment 17, posted at 10.01.11 16:12:29 by Original Champion Reply
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  • The highlanders will compete well to start with until they get hit with injuries, they dont have enough stars and depth to perform for the whole super 15.

  • Comment 18, posted at 12.01.11 01:37:04 by ponsonbyhighlander Reply

     
  • @ponsonbyhighlander (Comment 18) :

    Welcome to the site ponsonby highlander.

    We need people with your insight and vision around here.

    Trust you enjoyed the article.

    We have a couple of interesting Super Rugby competitions that you may be interested in ….coming up soon ! ;-)

  • Comment 19, posted at 12.01.11 01:52:37 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • Hey hey! Our second ‘Lander ;) . Good to have you here, ponsonby! And since you guys don’t play us at all this season, we can all be good friends all year :)

  • Comment 20, posted at 12.01.11 09:21:06 by robdylan Reply
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