Otago Daily Times

New faces get start for Highlander­s

- STEVE HEPBURN

SOME big names are missing, but the Highlander­s will give new boys a run in the first game of the season.

The Highlander­s have named 12 new players in the two sides named to take on the Crusaders in Temuka tomorrow.

The two sides will field different teams in each half, a couple of players on the two teams getting to play a whole game.

The Highlander­s’ two All Blacks — Aaron Smith and Shannon Frizell — are not playing, while neither are Ash Dixon, Marino MikaeleTu’u, Nehe MilnerSkud­der, Liam Squire or Josh Ioane. No All Blacks from the Crusaders will be sighted.

Smith and Frizell have not been back for long, and Dixon also had a late start to training, while the other players have slight niggles which mean they are unable to front for the match.

Highlander­s coach Tony Brown said none of the rested players would be unavailabl­e for the season’s start in a couple of weeks. Only longterm casualties such as lock Paripari Parkinson (ankle) and winger Sam Gilbert (knee) have been ruled out of the opener.

Squire had come off two heavy operations on his hip and knee but should be right, while outside back Solomon Alaimalo should get 40 minutes in next week’s match against the Hurricanes in Alexandra.

MilnerSkud­der should also get some playing time against the Hurricanes.

Brown said MilnerSkud­der and Alaimalo being out gave a chance to Connor GardenBach­op.

The youngster was picked for the Highlander­s last season but never made an appearance, having pulled out before the season started because of a back injury. Brown admitted he had not even seen Connor, the younger brother of Hurricanes first fiveeighth Jackson GardenBach­op, play.

GardenBach­op is listed to play both halves along with his Wellington teammate Teariki BenNichola­s. Tasman loose forward Hugh Renton has joined the squad as cover and will get some playing time, while young Otago loose forward Sean Withy, who is training with the team as a developmen­t player, will play on the openside flank.

The Crusaders have lost loose forward Tom Sanders, who broke some bones in his cheek last week in an internal game. He does not need surgery but will be out for eight to 10 weeks.

In better news for the Crusaders, lock Quentin Strange has signed with the franchise through to 2023.

Veteran Luke Romano will captain the team in the second half for the Crusaders.

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Tony Brown

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