The Highlanders as expected emerged comfortable winners over the Sunwolves on Saturday.
Another tough lesson looms for the Sunwolvesas they take on 2015 champions the Highlanders in what should be a high-scoring contest. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 3pm AEST.
New Zealand teams have provided the Sunwolves with nightmares to date this season with the Japanese team thrashed 83-17 in round one by the Highlanders and 50-3 by the Crusaders last Friday night.
All Blacks’ Waisake Naholo and Liam Squire return to the Highlanders starting lineup for Saturday’s match against the Sunwolves in Invercargill.
Naholo has missed five round of Super Rugby Live with a hamstring injury, though made an encouraging return to club rugby last week. Squire starts at blindside flanker, while Joe Wheeler returns at lock.
All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa pushes into second five, as Matt Faddes starts at centre.
The Sunwolves have made a number of changes to their team, which last week went down 50-3 against the Crusaders.
It’s a brand new midfield combination with Timothy Lafaele moving from outside to inside centre to accommodate Will Topou.
Yasutaka Sasakura comes onto the wing to replace Teruya Goto.
There are a number of changes in the forward pack too, with tight-head prop Yasuo Yamaji and hooker Tusuke Niwai joining Keita Inagaki in the front-row.
Liaki Moli’s injury sees Uwe Helu join Sam Wykes in the second-row.
Willie Britz and Yuhimaru Mimura join Ed Quirk in the back-row.
The Sunwolves remain a work in progress and at least broke through for a win against the Bulls a fortnight ago. That win provides a platform for future success.
While a win is very unlikely here against the Highlanders, the Sunwolves need to play the percentages well and execute the basics properly if they wish to test a clinical team like the Highlanders.
If the Sunwolves can stick with the Highlanders for 40 minutes or so, such strong competition will aid their evolution.
Highlanders will be too strong but the Sunwolves are improving and should be willing competitors today before fading against a seasoned professional outfit.
Highlanders by 36.
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