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Super Rugby: Brumbies aiming to close on Chiefs

The Brumbies play host to the Highlanders knowing that a victory will enable them to close on Super League standings leaders the Chiefs after they were beaten 25-22 by the Reds.

Having won ten out of ten the Chiefs were starting to look unstoppable, but their first reverse of the campaign will give the Brumbies extra motivation heading into their clash at GIO Stadium.

WhatBrumbies v Highlanders
WhereGIO Stadium, Canberra
When14:35 AEST, Sunday 14th May
How to watchStan Sport
OddsBrumbies 1.16, Highlanders 5.00

Larkham opts for one change

Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham has made just one alteration to the XV who started the 33-26 win over the Melbourne Rebels last time out, with Ollie Sapsford earning a spot in the centre alongside Len Ikitau.

And the good news for Larkham and the Brumbies is that they also have a couple of young stars back in the fold after they had been sidelined for the majority of the campaign to date.

Hudson Creighton and Tom Hooper are both included among the replacements, with the latter having appeared off the bench against the Rebels to mark his return from shoulder and foot injuries.

Creighton is involved for the first time this season, while Larkham has warned not to read too much into the fact that the Highlanders have only won three from ten so far.

He told reporters: "We certainly know where they are on the ladder is not indicative of how good this team is."

A key figure for the hosts could be fullback Tom Wright, who has made more metres from kick returns, 515, than any other player in Super Rugby so far this term.

He can be backed at 2.50 to score a try at anytime against the Highlanders on Sunday.

These two sides last met in April 2022, when the Brumbies claimed a 28-17 win to end a run of six consecutive defeats to the Highlanders, who have also won the last four clashes between these two sides when they were the nominated away team.

An additional factor for the hosts is that they will want to continue to impress to allow halfback Nic White and back-row forward Pete Samu to leave Canberra on a high note at the end of the season.

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Injuries hamper Highlanders

Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody has had a number of injury problems to contend with in the lead-up to this fixture, with the second-row pair of Will Tucker and Pari Pari Parkinson both sidelined.

Another lock option is gone with Fabian Holland ruled out by a hamstring injury, with Shannon Frizell switching from flanker to cover, while Ethan de Groot, Aaron Smith and Sam Gilbert are all rested.

All of those disruptions will not help the visitors try to improve on the stat that they have crossed the gainline on 59 carries per game so far this season, the lowest number of any side in the tournament.

In the backs Dermody is hoping that the return of Jona Nareki to the starting XV will provide a much-needed spark, with the Fijian winger having been blighted by knee, ankle and foot injuries over the past couple of years.

The Highlanders tactician said: "He's an X-factor player. He scores a lot for us and he's accurate in his reads on defence - he also has a pretty good left boot."

Nareki is available at 2.25 to score a try an anytime in the game, while the Highlanders are 2.30 to score the first try of the match.

Last time out the Highlanders conceded seven tries in a 52-28 loss to the Chiefs and they know that they will have to improve in defence if they are to have any chance of upsetting the high-flying Brumbies.

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