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Highlanders to ease Test players' return

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/06/2016

All Blacks Ben Smith and Aaron Smith will sit out the Highlanders' first match of Super Rugby's return because of their international workload.

Test teammate Malakai Fekitoa is likely to join them in not travelling to South Africa for the match against the Southern Kings.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph says the defending champions have to manage their squad and the international break is a big hurdle that all Super Rugby teams face.

"You can pretty much see that all of the Test players are going to be pretty tired at the end of a Test campaign in June," he said.

"One of the big reasons we won the championship last year was that everyone got an opportunity to play and really contributed well, and that's what we're relying on this year."

But Joseph is also hoping there are plenty of Highlanders involved in the third and final All Blacks Test against Wales, which will be played on their home ground in Dunedin.

"It was a real delight to hear eight of our players in the All Blacks for the first time for so many years, so fingers crossed they're going to get a run on Saturday," he said.

The Highlanders' preparations for the resumption of Super Rugby next week will include a warm-up match against the Crusaders in Oamaru on Thursday.

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