Ellison set to start for Highlanders against Sharks

The Highlanders look set to be given a big boost as All Black centre Tamati Ellison appears to be in line to make his first appearance of the Super Rugby season.

Ellison has been injured for the whole season so far after undergoing a shoulder operation at Christmas and was not expected back until June.

However he has made a faster than expected rehabilitation and has been training with the Highlanders at full contact for the past few weeks.

Coach Jamie Joseph said that Ellison appears fine to play and would be an asset for the struggling Highlanders.

“Tamati Ellison is a quality footballer but he has had nearly six months off so it is not going to be easy for him to come straight back in and perform,” Joseph said.

“But in saying that, he is an experienced guy who brings a lot of confidence to those younger guys around him.”

Ellison is likely to be named at centre outside Ma’a Nonu who had a small operation on his face last week to remove a growth but should be fine to play this week.

The Highlanders had the bye last weekend and were given all of last week off so that they can start this week fresh.

“We are looking at these next five games that we play as a sort of mini-season,” Joseph told the Otago Daily Times.

“They are all going to be played on hard, firm tracks so we will be looking to play some running rugby.”

Joseph said the emphasis for the Highlanders is to just concentrate on the game on the field and not get too complicated for the rest of the season.

The coach said that the players had enjoyed a week away and had trained well yesterday.

“We just need to look at simplifying things and get a fresh start for everyone.”

“I thought in our last match against the Crusaders we did some good things and were not far away.”

While Ellison is likely to feature for the Highlanders in the midfield they do have another problem with a shortage of wingers as Kade Poki and Buxton Popoali’i are unlikely to play this weekend.

Poki has sore ribs and Popoali’i is struggling with a foot injury which could need surgery if some rest does not fix the problem.

Joseph says that he is considering Otago outside backs as replacements but Matt Faddes had played little rugby lately while Jayden Spence was more of a midfielder.

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