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TEAM NAMING: Highlanders boosted by newcomers

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018    Getty Images

A surprise reappearance back in the Highlanders side, for whom he made 33 appearances before heading off to Italy to play for Benetton in 2017, is first five-eighths Marty Banks. 

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The 29-year-old has been one of the more peripatetic players in the New Zealand game since first appearing overseas in Siberia from his Buller base.

He returned to Buller to make 10 appearances in the 2012 Heartland competition before beginning a four-year stint with Tasman. After 16 appearances for Benetton in the 2017-18 season he took up a position in Japan with Docomo Red Hurricanes. He will be a handy back-up goal-kicker for the side with 165 points scored previously.

Prop Ayden Johnstone hails from Waikato and made his debut for the side in 2016. A former New Zealand Secondary Schools representative in 2014 he played for New Zealand Under-20s in 2016. He will be joined by another young Waikato prop Josh Iosefa-Scott.

Boosting the side up front will be prop Sef Fa'agase. The New Zealand-born 27-year-old has played 43 Super Rugby games for the Reds since 2015. Lock Jack Whetton will also bolster the locking stocks with experience gleaned in Super Rugby with the Brumbies in 2014 and in English rugby.

The loss of Lima Sopoaga to Wasps in England appears to be well covered, not only with Banks on hand but also Bryn Gatland having transferred from the Blues for whom he made 15 appearances since his 2017 debut, scoring 60 points for the side. Add to him the emerging potential of Otago first five-eighths Josh Ioane and the Highlanders should not lack for options at first five-eighths.

Another absentee from the squad of recent years is long-serving lock Alex Ainley who has completed the one-year extension to his contract.
In: Ayden Johnstone, Sef Fa'agase, Bryn Gatland, Marty Banks, Ray Niuia, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Jack Whetton, Folau Fakatava

Out: Guy Millar, Aki Seiuli, Kalolo Tuiloma, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Alex Ainley, Dan Pryor, Josh Renton, Fletcher Smith, Lima Sopoaga.

All Blacks: Liam Coltman, Jackson Hemopo, Elliot Dixon, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, Liam Squire, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith.

Placing last year:
Sixth in regular season (Played 16, won 10, lost six)

Squad:

Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Tyrel Lomax, Sef Fa'agase, Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Ray Niuia, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Jack Whetton, James Lentjes, Marino Makaele Tu'u, Dillon Hunt, Shannon Frizell, Liam Squire, Elliot Dixon, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Kayne Hammington, Folau Fakatava, Bryn Gatland, Marty Banks, Josh Ioane, Rob Thompson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Matt Faddes, Richard Buckman, Sio Tomkinson, Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Tevita Nabura, Tei Walden, Tevita Li, Josh McKay.