Preview: Highlanders v Reds
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 16, Highlanders 9, Reds 7
Captain Andrew Hore lines up for duty after recovering from his rib injury while prop Tony Woodcock also makes his return to the front row. Wing Kade Poki has suffered a rib injury.
The Reds will head south without dangerous wing Digby Ioana who suffered a knee injury last week. Another wing Chris Feauai-Sautia suffered a thigh strain. Hooker Saia Faingaa has a neck injury, halfback Nick Frisby an ankle injury while utility Mike Harris is out due to a hand injury.
Lessening the injury impact will be flanker Liam Gill who had a week out as the result of a knee injury.
Neither side can be happy with their form but the difference for the Reds is that they have been picking the odd win up along the way. The Highlanders are winless, and desperate. The Reds have never won against the Highlanders in the south. There were times during the Hurricanes game when the Highlanders had the winning of the contest, while last week's effort against the Chiefs was close enough to have some positivity going into Friday's game. The Reds will suffere without some of their key players but their tenacity and ability to scrap out a win will be a decided asset in this contest.
It could come down to a penalty goal to decide this game and discipline will be a must. The Highlanders have the greater need for victory and with all the experience in their squad that should be the incentive to minimise mistakes and take opportunities as they occur. The desire to get that first win in the south may be a psychological barrier for the Reds who are not within the realms of possibility of ending their run of losses. But that home town desire should come through in the end. Highlanders by 4.