Harmon and Nareki return for the Highlanders

Harmon and Nareki return for the Highlanders

The Highlanders are poised for a thrilling encounter at Forsyth Barr Stadium this Sunday as they face the Fijian Drua in their final scheduled home game of the 2024 season. This clash promises to be a spectacle with both teams vying for a crucial play-off berth, separated by only two points on the table and occupying the last two playoff spots.

The Highlanders will be bolstered by the return of seasoned campaigners Billy Harmon and Jona Nareki, who will take their places at No. 8 and on the left wing, respectively. Young talent Ajay Falefaga, who impressed earlier this season on debut, will step up to steer the team at first-five with Cameron Millar ruled out for this week’s game.

Highlanders Head Coach, Clarke Dermody, while disappointed for Millar, was confident in his replacement, “ Ajay has a played a few games as an emerging 10 this season and he’s fit and ready and really excited to get out on the field for our last home game this weekend. He’s been working hard with the coaches and Rhys (Patchell) on his ability to control the game and I’m looking forward to seeing that on Sunday.”

In the midfield, Sam Gilbert will cover for the injured Tanielu Tele’a, who sustained a knee injury in last week’s match against the Blues, while Jake Te Hiwi shifts to center to accommodate Gilbert. Connor Garden-Bachop re-joins the squad after a brief injury hiatus, and Matt Whaanga is on track for his second appearance in 2024. The rest of the team remains consistent, maintaining the strong line up from previous weeks.

Leadership duties will be shared by Billy Harmon and Ethan de Groot, the latter having taken over the captaincy during Harmon’s injury absence.

Dermody added, “Ethan’s done a great job in Billy’s absence and being able to utilise their differing skillsets this weekend as co-Captain’s is going to benefit the team.”

This weekend’s game also marks the annual celebration of grassroots rugby, the Highlanders Club Round. All junior registered Club Rugby Kids are invited to attend the game in their club kits. The halftime break will feature the eagerly anticipated Junior Club Rugby relay, where defending champions, the Green Island Grizzlies, aim to retain their 2023 title. Adding to the festivities, Highlanders players will referee over 20 junior metro rugby games on Saturday morning, experiencing the game from the other side of the whistle.

Highlanders v Fijian Drua – 2:05pm, Sunday 26th May, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

  1. Ethan de Groot (Co-Captain)
  2. Henry Bell
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Mitch Dunshea
  5. Fabian Holland
  6. Oliver Haig
  7. Sean Withy
  8. Billy Harmon (Co-Captain)
  9. Folau Fakatava
  10. Ajay Falegaga
  11. Jona Nareki
  12. Sam Gilbert
  13. Jake Te Hiwi
  14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
  15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens


  1. Jack Taylor
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown
  3. Saula Ma’u
  4. Max Hicks
  5. Nikora Broughton
  6. James Arscott
  7. Matt Whaanga
  8. Connor Garden-Bachop

Injured/unavailable: Jonah Lowe (knee), Hugh Renton (ankle), Rhys Patchell (pec), Josh Timu (ankle), Cameron Millar (HIA Protocols), Tanielu Tele’a (knee), Pari Pari Parkinson (shoulder).

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