Fekitoa fit but Ngatai ruled out of Dunedin playoff

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 杭州夜生活
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Fekitoa, who missed the last match of the regular season with a groin problem, comes back into a backline which also boasts All Blacks Aaron and Ben Smith as well as free-scoring wingers Waisake Naholo and Patrick Osborne.

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The Highlanders will be looking for their first victory in post-season play since 1999 to move on to a semi-final against the Wellington Hurricanes or New South Wales Waratahs.

Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu also returns to the back row after recovering from a neck problem for the clash under the roof at the Otago Stadium in Dunedin.

The Chiefs have been ravaged by injury this season and their squad was further depleted when top try-scorer Charlie Ngatai (concussion) and fullback Tom Marshall (knee) were ruled out of Saturday’s match.

Tim Nanai-Williams moves into the centres to replace Ngatai in a midfield partnership with his cousin Sonny Bill Williams, while Damian McKenzie starts in the number 15 shirt.

The match pitches the third most potent attack in Super Rugby against one of the stingiest defences in the competition in the twice champion Chiefs.

The Highlanders have won the last two meetings between the sides in Dunedin, most recently a 36-9 victory in late May, but the Chiefs won six of the seven previous encounters in Otago before that.

South Africa’s Stormers take on ACT Brumbies in the other wildcard playoff in Cape Town later on Saturday to determine the fourth semi-finalist.

The Stormers are seeded third after winning the South African conference so will travel to Sydney to face the reigning champion Waratahs in the last four on June 27 if they get past the Brumbies.

That would send the winner of the all-New Zealand wildcard playoff to Wellington to face the Hurricanes, who are top seeds after topping the regular season standings.

The Brumbies had an injury concern over David Pocock but the Wallabies flanker was named in the starting side on Thursday after progressing through the concussion protocols for a head knock he received last week against the Canterbury Crusaders.

Australia flyhalf Matt Toomua, however, was again named as a replacement for the Canberra-based side after coming off the bench last weekend on his return from an ankle injury.

The Stormers will be without captain and hulking back row presence Duane Vermeulen for the match as the Springbok number eight is recovering from a neck injury.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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