The Highlanders have axed six players – including All Black Josh Ioane – for their Friday night Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Crusaders for breaking team code.
Highlanders coach Tony Brown named his 23-man squad for the fixture but at the bottom of the team sheet had listed six players as “unavailable”.
Joining Ioane in the category is Sione Misiloi, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Teariki Ben-Nicholas and Patelesio Tomkinson.
Brown told NZME the players had “broken the code” of his team and had been dropped for the match as punishment.
"There's six guys who are unavailable through letting the team down around their standards; broke the code that we live by and it's all around their professional habits," Brown said.
"They just let the team down, the leaders and the whole organisation so they won't be available for selection.
"They have to earn their right to get selected again so we'll how they go for the rest of the week at training and see how they go next week."
Brown said he was “disappointed” by the situation but wouldn’t elaborate on it.
"I'm disappointed, same as the whole organisation.
"They're always sorry. We've moved on, they've moved on and we look forward to the Crusaders now."
As such, Brown said he is more excited about other players getting a chance to put their hand up.
"Rugby's all about opportunity and if these guys perform well, then we've got quite a good chance to go out there and play good footy and win the game."
The Highlanders play the Crusaders at Orangetheory Stadium at 7pm this Friday.