Preview: Highlanders v Chiefs

The Highlanders are one win out of the four, the Chiefs are two out and both have five games to go. The winner can keep hoping for another week, the loser will have to accept 2007 is going to be a nothing year.

VENUE & TIME: Queenstown Events Centre, Saturday April 7, 14:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 11 � Highlanders 5, Chiefs 6.

LAST TIME: April 1, 2006 (Hamilton) � Chiefs 16-13 Highlanders.

WALKING WOUNDED: Greg Cooper was forced into two changes, as Glen Horton is ruled out of this match with an ankle problem incurred last week and Josh Blackie's shoulder has not come right. Finally the list for the Chiefs is getting shorter, not longer. Ian Foster will be particularly happy at the way Keith Robinson, Richard Kahui and Jono Gibbes came through last week.

FORM: In keeping with the funny seasons these teams have suffered, the Chiefs lost after having their best outing of the year and the Highlanders won without playing particularly well. Both teams offered more on defence that attack � the tackling from both sides was rugged and aggressive last weekend � but rugged defence won't win too many games at this level. The Chiefs picked up another loser's point but five of those is probably four too many for the year.

WHO'S HOT: Carl Hayman made an excellent return last week and it was obvious that he's in a class of his own at tighthead. Josh Blackie, as ever, was strong and Nick Evans played well, although moving him to fullback when Horton went off put the one classy attacker in the Highlanders backline out of the picture. Jimmy Cowan was again the pick of the Highlanders backs and his all-round game was vital in the win. Byron Kelleher has been very sharp since returning to active duty and Robinson was a commanding presence but too many things went wrong for the Chiefs. Sitiveni Sivivatu has been almost anonymous since he came back � perhaps the backline reshuffle will see him more involved - and others tended to drift in and out of the game when it was critical that the intensity be maintained.

WE THINK: This is a tough one to pick but we think the Chiefs have the greater firepower and, for that reason if not for many others, we think they will take the four points. Note four points; we don't think this will be a free-flowing match and tries might be thin on the ground.


Highlanders: 1 � Clarke Dermody, 2 � Anton Oliver, 3 � Carl Hayman, 4 � Hoani MacDonald, 5 � James Ryan, 6 � Craig Newby (captain), 7 � Alando Soakai, 8 � Ezra Taylor, 9 � Jimmy Cowan, 10 � Nick Evans, 11 � Viliame Waqaseduadua, 12 � Aaron Bancroft, 13 � Matt Saunders, 14 � Lucky Mulipola, 15 � James Wilson.

Reserves: 16 � Jason MacDonald, 17 � Chris King, 18 � Kane Thompson, 19 � Hale T-Pole, 20 � Toby Morland, 21 � Charlie Hore, 22 � Callum Bruce.

Chiefs: 1 � Simms Davison, 2 � Tom Willis (captain), 3 � Nathan White, 4 � Kristian Ormsby, 5 � Keith Robinson, 6 � Steven Bates, 7 � Marty Holah, 8 � Sione Lauaki, 9 � Byron Kelleher, 10 � Stephen Donald, 11 � Roy Kinikinilau, 12 � Niva Ta'auso, 13 � Richard Kahui, 14 � Lelia Masaga, 15 � Sitiveni Sivivatu.

Reserves: 16 � Aled de Malmanche, 17 � Ben Castle, 18 � Jono Gibbes, 19 � Liam Messam, 20 � Brendon Leonard, 21 � Murray Williams, 22 � Dwayne Sweeney.

REFEREE: Steve Walsh