Highlanders newbie Rob Thompson of Ngāti Kahungunu has been named to start again in centre in the upcoming match against the Crusaders this weekend, a match that’s been dubbed ‘Battle of the South’. Thompson says it’s going to be an epic match that he’s looking forward to play. 

"For anyone it’s the Crusaders mate. They won the title last year and even years before, it’s always the game that you want to get up for. They always got the best players, the All Blacks." 

Rob Thompson played for the Māori All Blacks side last year while they were on tour to the northern hemisphere where his potential and rugby skills were scouted. He says every little bit of training and rehab counts towards success. 

"Doing the extras. Doing the extra rehabilitation and extra recovery work. Yeah all those one percenters add up by the end of the week and you can go into the game confident." 

Thompson will be filling in the big boots left behind by Malakai Fekitoa and he will have the good support of his team mate Teihorangi Walden who will be on his inside. 

Thompson also believes that his fitness is greater than ever before and that will help him in his game. 

"As far as super level goes I feel a lot fitter, carrying my weight a lot more easier than what I was probably in the last two years. I guess having that understanding of how the Highlanders as a team like to play it has helped, helped put me on the pace a bit more." 

Two other upcoming Māori players Jackson Hemopo and Tom Franklin have been named for the locks for the Highlanders. Franklin says he has hopes to get wins every week for the team. 

Kick-off is at 7:30 pm on Saturday night in Dunedin.