Highlanders

Late Fekitoa try secures win for Highlanders

Both sides finished with 14 players in conditions that stifled running rugby as the Highlanders extended their winning run to seven matches, while the Bulls' play-off hopes now look ever more remote.

Fullback Matt Faddes scored the opening try for the visitors, who had to play the final 16 minutes a man down after a red card for wing Waisake Naholo for a reckless tackle with the game evenly poised at 10-10.

Highlanders comeback stuns Cheetahs

All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo crossed after the fulltime whistle, sparking scenes of jubilation from the visiting team.

They had looked buried when the Cheetahs ran in three quick tries of their own midway through the second spell to lead 41-24.

However, reserve winger Tevita Li, fullback Matt Faddes and Naholo - who bagged two tries - capitalised on a Cheetahs defence, reduced to 14 men following a yellow card shown to Uzair Cassiem.

Sopoaga ruled out of South Africa tour

Sopoaga, one of a bunch of All Blacks under an injury cloud ahead of the looming British and Irish Lions tour, hasn't played since pinging a hamstring against the Blues in round three. 

The 26-year-old was initially given a six-eight week prognosis, and Highlanders coach Tony Brown was last week hopeful the pivot would return against the Bulls in Pretoria Sunday week (NZT). 

However, speaking from Bloemfontein on Thursday morning , Brown said Sopoaga was still "at least" two weeks away. 

Highlanders fans will have to wait at least another week for Sopoaga's return

There was hope Sopoaga, who hasn't played since picking up a hamstring injury against the Blues in round three, would return to play the Stormers in Dunedin in Friday night.

However, Sopoaga will sit out a seventh consecutive game, meaning Marty Banks will again run the show and Fletcher Smith will provide cover off the bench. 

Sopoaga is joined on the sidelines by loose forward Luke Whitelock, who has been struck down by concussion-type symptoms on the back of the Highlanders' 40-15 win against the Sunwolves last weekend. 

Highlanders cruise to victory against Sunwolves

The final result was never in doubt, although the Highlanders looked rusty coming off the bye and weren't always convincing, particularly in the first half.

Their scrum was generally efficient and the set piece solid despite the absence of All Blacks flanker Elliot Dixon, ruled out late by a knee infection.

It took just four minutes for the Highlanders to punish the Sunwolves' slow start, the visitors' poor handling gifting plenty of early possession.

All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo set to return for Highlanders against Sunwolves

The dynamic 12-test All Blacks winger, along with first-five-eighth Lima Sopoaga, were both injured against the Blues at Eden Park in Super Rugby round three on March 11.

Fast forward more than a month and Naholo is back in training after recovering from his hamstring injury and is in contention to be named later this week to take the field for the Highlanders after playing 40 minutes of club rugby in Taranaki for Spotswood United.

Sopoaga is still doing his recovery and performance programme and is likely to be considered for selection in two weeks. 

Blues squander lead in loss to Highlanders

Trailing 20-13 at halftime, the vastly-improved hosts slowly wrestled control of a clash between the two bottom-placed teams in the New Zealand Conference and retained the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy.

One of the few highlights of a scoreless second half for the Blues was the debut of cross code star Sonny Bill Williams, ending eight months out of rugby after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the Rio Olympics.

All Blacks midfield back Williams made one lightning break and offload but otherwise had little impact as the Highlanders dominated the closing stages.

Smith and Squire back for the Highlanders

Smith was a late scratching for the Highlanders last weekend after suffering a hamstring strain during the warmups.

He had previously missed two games with concussion.

Squire has been out of action since suffering a knee injury in the second round in early March.

Preparing for what will no doubt be a physical encounter coach Tony Brown has restored Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Alex Ainley and Elliot Dixon to the starting eight.

Squire makes his return after four weeks on the sideline and will make an impact from the bench.

Fekitoa only getting better

Under pressure to perform ahead of the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions series in winter, Fekitoa scored two tries in his team's 51-12 romp against the Melbourne Rebels in Dunedin on Friday night. 

The 24-year-old wasn't perfect - there were still a couple of frustrating handling errors - but there were enough signs for Coach Tony Brown to believe he's on the right track. 

"I think he was a little bit underdone in those first few games," Brown said. "But all the All Blacks were. It's hard for the All Blacks to come back and play good footy straight away.

Lima Sopoaga’s brother to make his debut for the Highlanders

Sopoaga, the brother of All Blacks and Highlanders first-five eighth Lima, has been named on the bench for the team's round six match against the winless Melbourne Rebels.

After struggling for game time, the 24-year-old former Cronulla Shark and Penrith Panther gave up league and returned to rugby union late last year in Australia's domestic competition.

The loose forward signed to play for the Southland Stags a few weeks ago, and was promptly snapped up by the Highlanders, whose loose forward stocks have been depleted by injury.