Super Rugby 2020: Depleted Highlanders shift Josh Ioane to fullback for behind-closed-doors clash against Jaguares

Highlanders utility Josh Ioane in action against the Crusaders.
Highlanders utility Josh Ioane in action against the Crusaders. Photo credit: Getty

The Highlanders will play their Super Rugby clash against the Jaguares behind closed doors, the Argentina side has confirmed. 

The growing coronavirus crisis has forced the Jaguares into the decision, 48 hours out from the match in Buenos Aires. 

Only 19 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Argentina, but both teams recently arrived from South Africa, where there were 17 confirmed cases. 

"In view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread in Argentina, we inform that the match between Jaguares and Highlanders will be held as a closed-door event at José Amalfitani Stadium," the Jaguares announced. 

"In accordance with the measure taken by the government of the City of Buenos Aires, which includes all mass events, we assume our responsibility as organisers in the face of a public health issue that is threatening society as a whole." 

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger told media that his team were having daily temperature checks for signs of the deadly virus.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders will be without two key All Blacks, as they chase their second Super Rugby win of the season. 

Their starting line-up features eight changes to their starting side, including resting All Blacks Aaron Smith and Liam Coltman.

But the biggest change comes at fullback, with Josh Ioane moving to the back from second-five. 

Ioane has replaced Michael Collins, who will come off the bench, with Tei Walden returning to the starting side at second-five. 

Both wings see changes, with Tima Fainga'anuku replacing the injured Jonah Nareki, while Sio Tomkinson returns from suspension in place of Josh McKay, who will also come off the bench. 

Kayne Hammington will start at halfback, due to Smith's rest week. 

In the forwards, hooker Ash Dixon is promoted from the bench in place of Coltman and will also captain the team in Smith's absence. 

Injuries to prop Ayden Johnstone and lock Jesse Parete see Daniel Lierner-Brown and Josh Dickson return to the starting side. 

On the bench, hooker Nathan Vella, prop Ethan De Groot and lock Will Tucker are in line for Highlanders debuts.

This will be the third meeting between the Jaguares and Highlanders in Super Rugby, with Aaron Mauger's outfit winning the previous two meetings, including a 34-8 win in Argentina in 2016. 

The Highlanders have only one win this season, against the Brumbies in round two. 

Highlanders: 1-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2-Ash Dixon (c), 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Josh Dickson, 5-Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Dillon Hunt, 8-Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 9-Kayne Hammington, 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Tima Fainga'anukui, 12-Teihorangi Walden, 13-Ngane Punivai, 14-Patelesio Tomkinson, 15-Josh Ioane.

Reserves: 16-Nathan Vella, 17-Ethan De Groot, 18-Jeff Thwaites, 19-Will Tucker, 20-Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21-Folau Fakatava, 22-Michael Collins, 23-Josh McKay.

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