The one-Test international hasn’t played a game in Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa, having suffered a groin injury ahead of the opening match.
Assistant coach Mark Hammett said Ioane took part in full training on Wednesday.
“He was back for a training two weeks ago, but unfortunately he reaggravated and so yeah, this was his first one back.”
However, the Highlanders won’t be quick to just drop pivot Mitch Hunt, who has been in sublime form throughout the competition. Hammett and the Highlanders coaching staff still see Ioane at 10 rather than 12, where he played earlier this year. But they’ve been extremely pleased with how Hunt has performed.
“He’s been really good, he’s just a warrior really,” said Hammett.
“He’s brave, always up for the challenge, you don’t see him getting flustered very often and he’s a really good leader within our group. There are only good things to say about Mitch. He’s always trying to grow his game and growing those around him. He ticks all the boxes and is really courageous.”
Ngatungane Punivai is still going through concussion protocols, so won’t be available to play the Chiefs this weekend, while halfback Kayne Hammington fractured his hand late in the game against the Hurricanes and has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. A replacement will be confirmed in the coming days.
Both the Highlanders and Chiefs sit at the bottom of the Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa table, and while the Chiefs are yet to record a win in the competition, Hammett’s still expecting them to be dangerous.
“They have a lot of threats. We are preparing for the best Chiefs team possible and all of their games have just been really close. We are not a team that can get ahead of ourselves. Playing up there is always going to be a difficult challenge, one we look forward to.”
Both the Highlanders and Chiefs name their sides on Friday.
The Highlanders travel to Hamilton this weekend to take on the Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato on Sunday at 3:35pm.
100% of proceeds from every Fan Zone child ticket will go towards providing beds and bedding for disadvantaged Kiwi kids through Variety – the Children’s Charity. The Chiefs are aiming to provide 50 beds including bedding, so by taking your kids along to the match on Sunday, you’ll also be helping kids who are sleeping on the floor this winter.
Get your tickets HERE.