High­landers geared to go hard

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS -

When the High­landers take on the Brumbies at the Queen­stown Recre­ation Ground on Fri­day, the new team will be play­ing out of their skins, says man­ager Roger Clark. Af­ter a poor sea­son last year de­spite a team heavy with for­mer All Blacks, coach Jamie Joseph has opted for a much younger Su­per 15 team this year, in­clud­ing only two cur­rent All Blacks – Aaron and Ben Smith, and for­mer All Blacks Brad Thorn and Jar­rad Hoeata. All of the team, ex­cept the Smith boys, had been train­ing to­gether since Novem­ber and were keen to get on the field in the first of three pre-sea­son games be­fore the first match at Forsyth Barr Sta­dium in Dunedin on Fe­bru­ary 22 against the Blues. ‘‘They’re all play­ing for their spots re­ally. We’ve got a re­ally new team com­pared to last year,’’ Clark said. ‘‘They’ve trained their butts off and they just want to show the coaches they should be start­ing on Fe­bru­ary 22.’’ The Brumbies would be tough com­pe­ti­tion hav­ing beaten the High­landers by a small mar­gin last year be­fore go­ing on to be a fi­nal­ist in the Su­per 15 com­pe­ti­tion. Clark said the game was part of a deal that would also see the War­ratahs play a pre-sea­son clash against the High­landers in Queen­stown next year. ‘‘It’s been work­ing re­ally well for us the last cou­ple of years. We’re try­ing to take it to another level this year.’’ That in­cluded a fundrais­ing lunch for the Wakatipu Rugby Club on Fri­day and young rugby play­ers from the Wakatipu and Ar­row­town clubs hav­ing play­ers bil­leted at their homes on Fri­day night. ‘‘I don’t know who’s more ex­cited – the kids or their par­ents.’’ The team would stay un­til Sun­day en­joy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for them and their fam­i­lies.

Com­ing through: Brad Thorn in ac­tion against the Blues last year.

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