Highlanders preview 2013
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 12/02/13 10:42am
The expectations at the Highlanders shot through the roof last season after a stellar start to the campaign saw them top the table.
Eventual champions the Chiefs, the Crusaders and the Hurricanes were all brushed aside during the early rounds before they lost their way. The Crusaders and the Chiefs both exacted their revenge on the Otago franchise to end their play-off hopes.
Jamie Joseph has looked to address the situation with the addition of some battle-hardened stars - with Tony Woodcock, Brad Thorn and Ma'a Nonu all arriving in the off-season.
In fact the Highlanders have a pretty impressive core to the team, when you add in the likes of skipper Andrew Hore, half-backs Aaron Smith and Colin Slade, winger Hosea Gear and full-back Ben Smith.
Big things are also expected of Japanese No 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, Lima Sopoaga and Declan O'Donnell this season.
The depth of the squad will be tested, though, especially as the likes of Jimmy Cowan, Chris Noakes, James Haskell and Adam Thomson have all moved on.