History against improved Tahs in Dunedin
Michael Hooper and Ned Hanigan's returns have boosted the NSW Waratahs' hopes for their daunting Dunedin assignment as the Super Rugby Pacific play-off picture clears.
The Waratahs play the Highlanders on Sunday in the final game of the penultimate round.
The Wallabies pair, as well as 20-year-old flanker Langi Gleeson are part of a reshuffled Waratah deck that also sees Ben Donaldson move to fullback and Alex Newsome to No.13 with Izzy Perese's injury.
A costly 22-18 loss to the Hurricanes last week allowed the New Zealand side to jump them into fifth, while the Queensland Reds' win on Friday night momentarily pushed them above both.
It leaves the Waratahs needing a win at Forsyth Barr Stadium to jump up again from seventh, where a likely quarter-final on the road against the Crusaders awaits if they're to stay there.
That will be easier said than done, the Waratahs conceding at least 40 points in their last three trips to Dunedin and Australian teams losing 16 of their last 18 games at the venue.
After a string of tight losses to New Zealand rivals the Highlanders have won three straight, including a 61-10 thrashing of the Western Force last week.
"Dunedin's never easy for an Aussie team to go and win but that's what we're looking to do," Waratahs lock Hugh Sinclair said.
"Yeah absolutely (they have momentum); they're in eighth but not a bad side, statistically the best attacking side inside the 22m zone.
"Plenty of trick plays, their coaches are all over that and one of best No.9s in the world in Aaron Smith and Folau Fakatava behind him."
Sinclair said the inclusions would ideally ensure no fadeout like the one that cost them against the Hurricanes.
"In that second half missing tackles and the urgency (wasn't there) and we just weren't good enough and the team list reflects that as well," Sinclair said.
"So we're looking to have a better impact in that second half and not fade away like we did on the weekend."
The Highlanders can lock in eighth spot and a quarter-final against the Blues with victory, but will be without rested All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot.
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