Highlanders in and out of sick bay

Hoeata has not played since tearing the pectoral muscle in his chest before Christmas but he has played for the Highlanders development team in the past two weeks and is likely to be brought into the starting lineup to lock the scrum.

Rutledge has played off the bench in the first five matches but Andrew Hore has been ruled out with a calf strain and Rutledge will start in front of his home crowd.

Blindside flanker Adam Thomson, who missed the 26-33 loss against the Brumbies because of a neck muscle strain, will return in the No 6 jersey.

It has been a tough week for the Highlanders as they absorbed the season-ending injuries to Colin Slade and John Hardie, the bad knee injury to workhorse lock Nick Crosswell, the disappointment of their first loss of the season and two 13-hour travel days to and from Canberra.

"It's not ideal but it's what the competition is about," head coach Jamie Joseph said.
"Everyone has their challenges with travel and injuries. We just have to accept it and keep going."

Slade remains in hospital in Australia after surgery on his broken tibia and fibula and Hardie had an operation on his broken toe on Wednesday. Crosswell has a medial ligament tear and his knee is in a brace as he faces two months on the sideline.

Others on the injury list are Lima Sopoaga (fractured scapula, out for the season), Hore (strained calf muscle, out for a week), Kenny Lynn (fractured neck, out indefinitely), Siale Piutau (broken ankle, return date uncertain) and wing Telusa Veainu (concussion).

But Joseph still believes there is an air of confidence in the squad as they prepare for their game in the deep south.

"There's been quite a bit happen in the past week ansd you never know how that is reflected in their performance. But they've recovered well and they're a pretty honest group. I don't think they'll be flat. There's still a bounce in their step."

The Rebels, reinforced by star backs James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, are coming off a morale-boosting 30-29 win over the Force in Melbourne last weekend.

"They beat the Force, the Force beat the Waratahs and we really struggled to beat the Waratahs so it will be tough," Joseph said.

"They've got some really good quality players. We need to make sure we do the basics well and don't give them a sniff."