The excitement’s almost palpable.

Tomorrow night the Highlanders will play their first game of the 2024 Super season, in a warm-up match at the Queenstown Events Centre, against Moana Pasifika.

Fair to say the ’Landers — with a squad full of fresh faces, and a new coaching broom — are champing at the bit for a proper hit-out, and to see if this might be their year.

Loose forward Hugh Renton, a breakout star last season, says the squad’s already looking in good nick.

‘‘It’s been a long-ish pre-season, you’re doing all the trainings and up and downs and burpees and sprinting and whatnot, and you just want to go out there and play footy; do what you love.

‘‘I think the excitement is about getting on the field, representing our region — there are a lot of guys from this area and we’re really passionate about the people in the area and the people among our organisation.

‘‘If we can show that on the field and make the region proud, I think the results will follow.’’

The side’s leading try-scorer last year, Renton, 27, isn’t counting his own chickens just yet, though.

‘‘I just think every year starts again, so, look, I have to earn my place back in the team and try to do what I can, really, to help us get those wins.’’

He notes while the squad’s full of young blood, there’s also a healthy dose of experience, too, for example back Sam Gilbert, prop Ethan de Groot and flanker Billy Harmon.

It’s go time: Pictured ahead of their first pre-season game, against Moana Pasifika, in Queenstown tomorrow night are, from left, Highlanders Solomone Tukuafu, Welsh international Rhys Patchell and Timoci Tavatavanawai

Then there’s Welsh import Rhys Patchell, who’s played 22 times for his home country and has over 200 first-class games.

‘‘He’s a big win for us,’’ Renton says.

They’ve also got a couple of other big wins on the sidelines — former Highlander and Southland Stag Kendrick Lynn and former head coach Jamie Joseph have joined the coaching team.

Renton says they’re already having ‘‘a massive impact’’.

Joseph’s mere presence lifts everyone, Renton says.

‘‘He’s definitely a man that holds a lot of mana among the group.’’

Combining all that with a group of ‘‘great lads’’, bonded by a good team culture, and Renton reckons anything’s possible.

‘‘We, for sure, have the ability to go all the way I think.

‘‘We’ve got the team that’s really proud to be playing for the Highlanders.

“It’s exciting.’’

Tomorrow night’s game, sponsored by Bayleys Queenstown, kicks off at 6pm — tickets, available via eventfinda or on the gate, cost $30 for adults and $10 for secondary school students; kids under 13 go free.

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