Super Rugby: Highlanders Call in Old Reinforcements to Cover Injury Crisis

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IIMarch 19, 2013

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18:  Neil Brew of the Highlanders blasts past the defence of the Sharks during the round six Super 14 match between the Highlanders and the Sharks at Carisbrook Stadium March 18, 2006 in Dunedin, New Zealand.      (Photo by Jeff Brass/Getty Images)
Jeff Brass/Getty Images

You could be forgiven for thinking you had gone back in time. That is the feeling many Highlanders fans got when they heard that Neil Brew was the latest player called into the squad to cover for a multitude of midfield injuries, as was reported by Yahoo Sports.

Brew is an experienced campaigner to say the least. At 34 years old he has been around the block a few times, having played five seasons of Super Rugby between 2001 and 2006. Of these, four were with the Highlanders, where he became a mainstay in the midfield alongside Seilala Mapusua. 

Along with Brew, the southern franchise has also called up veteran hooker Jason Rutledge, a stalwart of the team in recent years who was initially unwanted for the 2013 season.

They are certainly interesting moves, ones that if nothing else show how dire the injury situation at the Highlanders has become.

Tamati Ellison, Shaun Treeby and Ma'a Nonu have all been missing, with just Phil Burleigh and youngster Jason Emery left to fill the gap in the No. 12 and No. 13 jersey's. While Nonu looks set to return this weekend, the situation remains less than ideal.

The Burleigh-Emery combination has looked solid and has covered well for the stars, but there is still some firepower lacking from the back line.

It was this firepower that had seen many dub the Highlanders as preseason favourites to win the whole thing in 2013. Certainly few would have predicted that after three games the southern men would be dead last on the competition table, having dropped each of these games which were all at home.

Although it is not just the midfield where they have been hit hard in the injury department. In Nasi Manu they have lost their best forward, while their two top hookers in Andrew Hore and Brayden Mitchell will be sidelined for the next month.

Whatever you make of it, there is one thing that cannot be denied: the injuries have had a significant impact on the team.

In losing Manu they have lost their main source of go-forward, while Hore is their leader and can at times act as a fourth loose forward. The forward pack has lost much of its substance without these two and has consequently struggled.

But it is the midfield that is the major concern. Not because it is any more important than the men up front, but because of the alarming rate at which men seem to be going down in this area.

It was here that the Highlanders were supposed to be the strongest in 2013. In Ma'a Nonu and Tamati Ellison they were to have the best midfield in the competition, threatening on attack and rock solid on defence.

But it was not to be. And now they are left in a situation where they have had to recall a player that would not look out of place in a Highlanders legends fundraiser game to fill the gap.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.