Tremendous Rugby 2019 preview collection: Highlanders

The Highlanders will probably be aiming for prime spot within the New Zealand Convention throughout 2019, but it surely guarantees to be a troublesome aim even for a facet stacked with loads of expertise. Within the eleventh a part of our 2019 Tremendous Rugby preview collection, we glance over the Dunedin-based franchise and their probabilities for the season forward. Extra Tremendous Rugby 2019 Tremendous Rugby 2019 preview collection: Highlanders Tremendous Rugby 2019 preview collection: Chiefs Israel Folau commits to Wallabies with new four-year deal Tremendous Rugby 2019 preview collection: Melbourne Rebels Can Chiefs get the most effective out of Rebels reject? Rugby Highlanders Coach: Aaron Mauger Captains: Ash Dixon and Ben Smith Main signings: Sef Fa’agase (Reds), Marty Banks (NTT Docomo), Bryn Gatland (Blues) Main departures: Dan Pryor (Sunwolves), Lima Sopoaga (Wasps), Fletcher Smith (Hurricanes) Squad Ash Dixon (c), Ben Smith (c), Liam Coltman, Ray Niuia, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Tyrel Lomax, Sef Fa’agase, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Jack Whetton, Luke Whitelock, Liam Squire, James Lentjes, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Shannon Frizell, Elliot Dixon, Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava, Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Marty Banks, Rob Thompson, Patelesio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Richard Buckman, Matt Faddes, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Waisake Naholo, Tevita Li, Tevita Nabura, Josh McKay Final season Gained 10, misplaced 6, completed fourth within the New Zealand Convention, sixth total The Highlanders had a robust 2018, but it surely simply wasn’t adequate within the sturdy New Zealand Convention, the place they completed fourth. It meant they wound up sixth total, regardless of having a greater report than the winners of the opposite two conferences. Shedding two of their final three matches actually harm the facet, forcing them to Sydney for a quarter-final towards the Waratahs. They appeared to have that match sewn up at half-time, just for the Tahs to pile on 24 unanswered factors and ship the New Zealand facet packing. (Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Photos) Strengths The Highlanders’ calling card is their back-row dominance. They've worldwide expertise all through, with Liam Squire and his horrible, horrible haircut main the way in which. Squire has been a everlasting fixture at No.6 for membership and nation over the previous few seasons, and when untroubled by damage, he’s probably the greatest again rowers within the recreation right this moment. Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt and Luke Whitelock spherical out the expertise within the unfastened forwards, all of whom have expertise within the All Blacks set-up. Their efficiency on the ruck and on the whole play may have a substantial bearing on the Highlanders’ success. There’s loads of class within the backline too. Ben and Aaron Smith have claims on being the world rugby’s greatest fullback and haflback respectively, whereas Waisake Naholo is a lethal finisher out extensive. Associated Tremendous Rugby 2019 preview collection: Chiefs Rugby Weaknesses The Highlanders’ main weak spot for probably the most half in 2018 was their defence. They leaked 445 factors throughout the course of the common season, the equal-worst report of all groups within the prime eight alongside the Waratahs. A lot of the enchancment on that facet of the ball should come from techniques and perspective quite than new personnel, with few of the franchise’s key signings anticipated to certain up the defence. A more healthy Liam Squire, who missed the beginning of final 12 months with a fractured thumb, will assistance on that entrance, as will the additional 4 kilos of muscle he’s piled on within the low season. The most important query mark heading into 2019, although, is who performs at five-eighth. Lima Sopoaga has left for England’s Premiership riches, and a void has opened up in his place. Kids Bryn Gatland and Josh Ioane are thrilling prospects, whereas returning cult determine Marty Banks affords loads of expertise. The expertise is there, however none have Sopoaga’s class. Will one in all them be capable of step up below the extraordinary stress of changing one in all Tremendous Rugby’s higher playmakers? Lima Sopoaga has left the Highlanders. Can they discover the appropriate alternative for him? (AAP Picture/SNPA, Adam Binns) Prediction Taking part in in another convention, the Highlanders would in all probability put themselves on the prime of the tree and nab a house quarter-final. However in New Zealand, and with the conundrum going through the facet at fly-half, it’s onerous to see them having a extra constant season than the Crusaders or Hurricanes. A 3rd-placed end within the convention looms, though they’ll in all probability nonetheless rack up the fourth-most wins within the competitors. Prediction: Third within the New Zealand Convention, fourth total The Roar’s 2019 Tremendous Rugby preview collection 5. Chiefs 6. Rebels 7. Sharks eight. Waratahs 9. Jaguares 10. Brumbies 11. Bulls 12. Stormers 13. Blues 14. Reds 15. Sunwolves