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Where: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
When: 06.35 (GMT)
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The Highlanders open their Super Rugby campaign for 2014 against Northern rivals the Blues from Auckland at home in Dunedin.
Perennial strugglers the Highlanders have a surprisingly good record against the Blues in recent times as out of the last five matches between the teams the Highlanders have won three.
Overall the Highlanders have played the Blues 22 times since 1996 and they have won 8 matches and lost 14 times. That gives the Highlanders a record of winning just 36% of their Super Rugby matches against the Blues.
There have been no draws in the 22 matches played and the average score when the teams play is: Highlanders 21 Blues 27.
As mentioned earlier this weekend’s match will be played in Dunedin so the Highlanders have home advantage which they have had on 11 of the 22 occasions that the teams have met.
From the 11 Super Rugby matches played in Dunedin the Highlanders have won 6 and lost five. This gives the Highlanders are much better success rate as they have won 55% of the matches against the Blues at home.
The average score when the Highlanders have played the Blues at home is : Highlanders 22 Blues 23.
The Highlanders will have a small physiological boost ahead of this match as on the last two occasions that the Blues have visited Dunedin they have lost. In both matches the Highlanders won by 7 points or more. The Blues don’t appear to like the Fosyth Barr Stadium too much.
In terms of selection the Blues have chosen to keep their big signing Benji Marshall on the replacements bench this weekend. He is expected to come on in the second half and play at first five.
Another selection of interest is loose head prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi who will make his first start for the Blues while Patrick Tuipulotu and Tevita Li could make their Super Rugby debuts.
The Highlanders have also named a number of new players in their team. Six players will make their starting debut for the Highlanders so familiarity could be a bigger a problem earlier on for the Highlanders than the Blues. Also remember last year the Blues started well but lost momentum as the tournament progressed.
1 . Kane Hames , 2 . Liam Coltman , 3 . Chris King , 4 . Brad Thorn , 5 . Jarrad Hoeata , 6 . Gareth Evans , 7 . Shane Christie , 8 . Nasi Manu (co.captain) , 9 . Aaron Smith , 10 . Lima Sopoaga , 11 . Patrick Osborne , 12 . Shaun Treeby , 13 . Malakai Fekitoa , 14 . Richard Buckman , 15 . Ben Smith (co.captain)
Replacements : 16 . Ged Robinson, 17 . Matias Diaz, 18 . Craig Millar, 19 . Josh Bekhuis, 20 . TJ Ioane, 21 . Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 . Hayden Parker, 23 . Phil Burleigh
15. Charles Piutau,14. Frank Halai,13. Jackson Willison,12. Francis Saili,11. George Moala,10. Chris Noakes,9. Piri Weepu,8. Peter Saili,7. Luke Braid,6. Steven Luatua,5. Tom Donnelly,4. Liaki Moli,3. Charlie Faumuina,2. James Parsons,1. Ofa Tu ‘ungafasi,
Replacements : 16. Tom McCartney,17. Sam Prattley,18. Angus Ta ‘avao,19. Patrick Tuipulotu,20. Brendon O ‘Connor,21. Bryn Hall,22. Benji Marshall,23. Tevita Li