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New Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody has pointed the way back to Invercargill for a match in 2023.
Clarke Dermody was never going to bypass his home-town Invercargill in his first campaign as Highlanders head coach for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Sure enough, the southern franchise have confirmed in an email to members unveiling their seven home fixtures for next season they will return to Invercargill for a regular season match for the first time since 2019.
The Highlanders may have jumped the gun somewhat on their announcement, with the official Super Rugby Pacific draw for 2023 to be unveiled at a function in Auckland on Sunday morning.
However, the southerners have confirmed they will open their season at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on February 25 against the Blues, with five of their six remaining home clashes also to be held at the roofed venue.
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The Highlanders will host the Western Force in their second home clash on March 19 at Invercargill’s Rugby Park, which will be a homecoming for Southland stalwart Dermody who succeeds Tony Brown as head coach at the southern franchise for 2023.
Dermody takes over a revamped coaching group at the franchise, with former Hurricanes chief Chris Boyd instilled in a “mentor” role to help guide the rookie head coach through his first campaign and Dave Dillon recently unveiled as new defence coach.
The ‘Landers will also host the Fijian Drua (March 25), the Hurricanes (April 8), Chiefs (May 5), Melbourne Rebels (May 20) and Queensland Reds (May 26) at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The Dunedin-based outfit will also meet the Crusaders in the “super round” in Melbourne on March 3.
The Highlanders are coming off a disappointing 2022 season which saw them sneak into the eighth and final quarterfinal spot with a 4-10 record. They were defeated 35-6 in the first knockout round by the Blues at Eden Park.
Highlanders’ home draw for 2023 Super Rugby Pacific: Feb 25: v Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin; March 19: v Western Force, Rugby Park, Invercargill; March 25: v Fijian Drua, Forsyth Barr Stadium; April 8: v Hurricanes, Forsyth Barr Stadium; May 5: v Chiefs, Forsyth Barr Stadium; May 20: v Melbourne Rebels, Forsyth Barr Stadium ; May 26: v Queensland Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium.