Waratahs out to avenge semi-final defeat
The Highlanders will have no fears about taking on the Waratahs in Sydney tonight, but this time the men from Dunedin certainly won't be flying under the radar.
They were heavy underdogs on their last visit to Allianz Stadium, but stunned most of the crowd of more than 32,000 by notching a 35-17 upset win against the Tahs in last season's Super Rugby semi-final.
The home side will be out for revenge this time, with captain Dave Dennis summing up the feelings of most of his teammates earlier this week by saying that loss was one of the toughest of his career.
Having a week off early in the season isn't always ideal, but the Waratahs' cause should be helped by last week's bye which probably came at a good time after the 32-15 loss to the unbeaten Brumbies in Canberra in round two.
The Waratahs will be without hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who broke his arm against the Brumbies, his spot to be taken by the talented Tolu Latu.
Apart from losing Polota-Nau, the only other change is also in the forwards where coach Daryl Gibson has named Wycliff Palu to make his first start of the season at No.8.
World Cup player Bernard Foley is still not ready to return to the line-up, with Kurtley Beale to again line up at No.10 where he will go head-to-head against Lima Sopoaga.
Gibson has maintained the faith with most of the squad that fell short against the Brumbies, electing to keep the backline intact.
That sets up a mouth-watering clash at fullback between Wallabies star Israel Folau and All Blacks counterpart Ben Smith.
Former NRL flyer Reece Robinson has been given another chance to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench. The Highlanders have started the defence of their Super Rugby title in mixed fashion, losing to the Blues in Auckland before beating the Hurricanes and Lions at home.
Apart from their talented backline, their strength is in the scrum where they have an 89% success rate this season, compared to 77% for the Waratahs.