The Highlanders have dished out a low blow to the Brumbies ahead of their Super Rugby clash in Canberra this weekend, as their campaign veers towards must-win territory.

Head coach Tony Brown said the Canberrans had a number of quality players but deployed a set piece-heavy style akin to those seen from South African sides.

"They're a scrum and maul team," Brown said.

"They don't play like Aussie teams - they maul you and they scrum you, and if you give away penalties they'll do it again."


"We don't have a great record (there) but we won our last game there and we feel like the Brumbies aren't as good as they used to be."

The Brumbies suffered narrow defeats to the Crusaders (13-17) and Sharks (22-27) to start their Super Rugby season before earning derby wins over the Force and Waratahs.

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The Highlanders, meanwhile, have found their all-Kiwi derbies tougher going in the first four weeks of the season, winning just the single match against the Blues.

The Dunedin-based side were thumped 41-15 by a clinical Hurricanes outfit last week, as the reigning champions ran away with the game in the second half.

On the personnel front, Alex Ainley and Patrick Osborne slot back into the starting XV.

But a host of Landers regulars including Liam Squire, Dan Pryor, Lima Sopoaga, Waisake Naholo and James Lentjes remain out.

Test centre Malakai Fekitoa, meanwhile, has overcome concussion and will play.

Brown said the return of winger Osborne was particularly important, given the absence of Naholo and omission of Tevita Li.

Veteran workhorse Ainley will also serve as a dependable second-row presence alongside Tom Franklin.

HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith (c), Patelesio Tomkinson, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne, Fletcher Smith, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Dillon Hunt, Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Joe Wheeler, Gareth Evans, Kayne Hammington, Marty Banks, Matt Faddes.