Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has tweaked his forward pack for their crucial Super Rugby derby against the Chiefs.
The Highlanders have made three changes to their forward pack for the pivotal Super Rugby match against the Chiefs in Dunedin.
In a bid to overturn a terrible home record against the Chiefs, Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph introduced flanker Elliot Dixon, lock Tom Franklin and hooker Brayden Mitchell to the starting team which lost their last match four weeks ago.
Gone from the side beaten 38-31 by the Reds in Brisbane are flanker Gareth Evans, lock Jarrad Hoeata and hooker Liam Coltman.
One forward not considered was flanker John Hardie, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during a practice game against the New Zealand Barbarians in Invercargill last Friday. He is expected to be out for eight weeks.
Joseph has named all three of his All Black backs in the starting line-up – halfback Aaron Smith, centre Malakai Fekitoa and fullback Ben Smith – while winger Patrick Osborne is also included after providing injury cover during New Zealand’s 3-0 series win over England.
The fifth-placed Highlanders lost their two games heading into the Test window break, leaving them on seven wins and six losses and clinging to a playoff spot.
The eighth-placed Chiefs also lost their two previous matches to be in a more critical position, three points behind their southern rivals.
The two-time defending champions will be buoyed by their record away to the Highlanders, having won six of their past seven visits.
They also won their round-two clash in March in Hamilton 21-19.
Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-capt), Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu (co-capt), Shane Christie, Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin, Ma’afu Fia, Brayden Mitchell, Kane Hames. Res: Ged Robinson, Matias Diaz, Chris King, Josh Bekhuis, Lee Allan, Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker, Phil Burleigh.