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Highlanders hit by injuries for Hurricanes clash

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Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph is having to deal with a heavy injury toll

The Highlanders have been hit by a raft of injuries ahead of their Super Rugby clash against the Hurricanes in Dunedin this weekend.

The Dunedin side with be without three of their highest rated props and their only two specialist openside flankers for the match.

Ma'afu Fia has been ruled out for the season with ruptured knee ligaments while Kane Hames is on a five week suspension.

Ross Geldenhuys is also unavailable after he broke a thumb playing against the Waratahs last weekend.

That makes Josh Hohneck the senior prop and Canterbury youngster Daniel Lienert-Brown has been brought into the squad for the rest of the season.

Shane Christie is still out with a hamstring injury he suffered in the warm ups last weekend and John Hardie was stretchered off with a dislocated ankle.

Otago openside flanker James Lentjes has been added to the squad and Elliot Dixon will probably probably move to openside flanker if Dan Pryor and Gareth Evans are not selected.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph says that his biggest challeng is dealing with the injuries.

"We have a lot of belief in our side but we also recognise we don't have a lot of stars so we have to work really hard, as we've done so far after the rusty start against the Crusaders.

"The pleasing thing is that each week we are learning and getting better. The downside is the injuries," he told NZ Newswire.

Joseph admitted that the Hurricanes will be their biggest challenge so far this season as they remain unbeaten.

"They're unbeaten, injury-free and at full-strength. They're now a very structured and organised team and Ma'a (Nonu) is playing his best Super rugby for some seasons. There are a lot of in-form All Blacks and they are a much-improved team."

Joseph also has to give his three All Blacks - Aaron and Ben Smith and Malakai Fekitoa - the mandatory two weeks rest during the competition but joked that next week's bye might count.

"We've got a bye after the Stormers next week - that will do them," he quipped.

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