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All the action between the Highlanders and Rebels.
While sports have returned to the world of the Covid-19 pandemic, it still pays to expect there will be a reminder of the risks of the virus.
For Super Rugby Transtasman, that came in the form of a new breakout in Melbourne, where the Rebels had just returned to after their loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington last weekend.
While the Rebels escaped Melbourne, basing themselves in Sydney, it became apparent they would be unable to return to New Zealand for their scheduled date against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Sunday. Instead, it will be the Highlanders jumping on a plane across the Tasman, taking on the Rebels at Leichardt Oval in Sydney.
It threw a spanner in the works for the Highlanders, and captain Aaron Smith said the Rebels had reached out to thank the Southerners for agreeing to move the match.
“I received a message from [Rebels first five-eighth] Matt To’omua last night on Instagram just saying thank you to the Highlanders for wanting to come,” Smith said.
“I said ‘hey mate, we’ve all got to do what we’ve got to do and we’re just happy to get the match off’. But it was great to get a message from them to say ‘hey thanks for coming, and being willing to come’.”
The relocation of the match means the teams will still compete for the full share of points, rather than settling for two each which would have been the case had the match not been able to go ahead.
In the context of the five-round campaign, a draw would put an abrupt end to any hopes of making the final.
“We know it’s going to be tough playing on neutral ground, and it’s actually going to be who’s the best at showing up and playing under these circumstances of playing away from home when your preparation’s not ideal,” Smith said.
“We’re just lucky we went to Perth and had a big turnaround, a 10-day turnaround. We’re really excited to go; just happy the match can go out. It’s one of those things in sport and the world that we live in with Covid, so we’re just grateful we can get to play.
“There’s nothing worse than taking a draw or two points that would shoot our opportunity to try and make this final, which we’re going for. Going over to play in 18 degrees ain’t bad, it’s just a bummer for our Queenstown fans. We just have to stay positive with the opportunity that we’ve got.”
The Highlanders have named a refreshed side for the match in Sydney, with hooker Liam Coltman, prop Ethan de Groot and loose forward James Lentjes all moving into the starting side. Hooker Ash Dixon moves back to the bench, while prop Jeff Thwaites and lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit have also been included in the reserves.