Waratahs down on experience for Highlanders

Adam Ashley Cooper may lead Waratahs 1582073487

It is likely flanker Michael Hooper, prop Sekope Kepu, lock Rob Simmons, first five-eighths Bernard Foley and utility back Kurtley Beale will all be missing from the starting XV.

Compensating for the missing players will be the return for lock Ned Hanigan and wing Cam Clark from injury. There is also a chance that another flanker Jack Dempsey could be sufficiently recovered from injury to play.

The job of taking Foley's place may fall to Mack Mason who has struggled to gain a place in the match day 23 since performing below expectations in the side's loss to the Sunwolves.

Chances of the Waratahs making the playoffs are slim at best. They need a bonus point win over the Highlanders and for the Chiefs to beat the Rebels while denying them a bonus point. The Highlanders also stand a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.

Waratahs assistant coach Steve Tandy said, "It's an opportunity for boys to come in and really represent what we stand for, and continue how we've gone through the season, making sure we fight for every minute we play.

"It's massive for us [to win] and it will tell you a lot about what we are. We're going to rest a few boys but it's exciting."

The game will also possibly mark the last games for the side of halfback Nick Phipps and threequarter Curtis Rona.

"Some boys have been waiting in the wings…and this weekend it will be a great opportunity to see these guys play, and that experience will lead them onto next year," Tandy said.

Prop Harry Johnson-Holmes said the task ahead of those chosen to play in Invercargill was not so much 'character building but character revealing'.

"How we respond this week will go a long way to [revealing] the future of the club.

"We have a lot of people leaving and it's an opportunity for younger guys to get their first shot in Super Rugby. To not treat it with the respect it deserves would be a big mistake," he said.

The sides have enjoyed a close rivalry in recent years but they haven't met in Invercargill since 2010 when the home team won 26-10.

Wing Clark said: "They [the Highlanders] are a great side, they have a lot of flair, a lot of variety in their attack and some great players. You've got to be pretty on to win against them. They've got a lot to prove as well going into this last game. It'll be a tough one, all the New Zealand sides are always pretty tough."

Adam Ashley Cooper may lead Waratahs 1582073487