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Ben Smith back to boost Highlanders


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Super Rugby qualifying finals

The Brumbies will certainly be out for revenge when they take on the Chiefs in a replay of last year's grand final.

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The return of co-captain Ben Smith from illness has boosted the Highlanders ahead of their Super Rugby play-off match against the Sharks in Durban.

The All Blacks fullback was hospitalised for three days with an infection, thought to have come from a superficial graze on his leg following the Highlanders' 44-16 loss to the Waratahs two weeks ago.

He missed the final regular season clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch, won 34-8 by the home team.

Hard to stop: Highlanders custodian Ben Smith.

Hard to stop: Highlanders custodian Ben Smith. Photo: Getty Images

Coach Jamie Joseph has made two changes to the forward pack as he looks to improve the Highlanders' set piece against the South African conference leaders.

Ged Robinson starts at hooker and Jarrad Hoeata at lock, meaning Tom Franklin moves to the bench.

In the backline, Lima Sopoaga has been recalled to the playmaker position at five-eighth and will partner Phil Burleigh at No.12, with Trent Renata moving back to the reserves.

Joseph says his team will need to hold their own in the possession battle against opponents he expects will kick a lot and attack through their powerful rolling mauls and scrum.

The Highlanders' scrum and lineout struggled in heavy losses to the Waratahs and Crusaders this month leading into their first play-off appearance for 12 years.

"You have to be at your absolute best when you play against the best teams in this competition and I'm not sure we've done that in the past two weeks," Joseph said.

Sunday's game (AEST) will be the Highlanders' second visit to Durban this season, after they produced a stellar performance in winning their round 11 clash 34-18.

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Phil Burleigh, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Ged Robinson, Kane Hames. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Matias Diaz, JP Koen, Josh Bekhuis, Tom Franklin, Fumiaki Tanaka, Trent Renata, Gareth Evans.


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Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
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NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
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SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
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NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
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SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
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ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
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CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
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SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
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Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
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SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
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ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
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England 4 2 2 0 58 11
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Team P W L D +/- Pts
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