WELLINGTON All Blacks flyhalf Lima Sopoaga is set to return for the Otago Highlanders in their Super Rugby match against Western Force in Perth on Saturday after missing eight games with a serious hamstring strain.
The 26-year-old will hope to hit the ground running against the Perth-based Force to bolster his hopes of selection in Steve Hansen's squad for the British and Irish Lions series starting next month.
"He got through his fitness test really well. He's probably in the best condition he's ever been in, so it's exciting," Highlanders coach Tony Brown told New Zealand media after the side's 17-10 win over the Bulls in Pretoria.
"He's going to come over and join us and have a full week of training with us. Hopefully he's going to be good to go, more than likely off the bench."
Marty Banks, who has been starting flyhalf for most of Sopoaga's absence, broke his nose in the Bulls clash but would be fine to play against Force.
"He's not going to do too well with the ladies in the next wee while," Brown said.
The Highlanders are likely to lose explosive All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo after he was shown a red card for reckless play. The competition's foul play committee will consider the case on Monday.
The 2015 champion Highlanders have now won a franchise record seven successive wins to shore up their place in the wildcard berths of the Australasian conference, having recovered from a shaky start that saw them lose three of their four opening matches.
"We've put ourselves in a good position to really attack this last quarter of the competition," said Brown.
"If we can keep our momentum going and keep performing well, who knows where we can end up and who knows what we can achieve."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)