Highlanders welcome back Ben Smith
Highlanders full-back Ben Smith returns from a concussion to face the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Aaron Smith will start his 98th game for the Highlanders while Head Coach Tony Brown while Fletcher Smith will play just his third game for the club at first five.
“Fletcher has trained well and showed some good form preseason he’s a young player with a lot of potential and we back him to the job for the team on Saturday” said Brown.
Young Otago openside Dillon Hunt who debuted off the bench last week will get his chance to start as Elliot Dixon shifts to blindside and Gareth Evans moves to the bench.
Joe Wheeler will start in place of the injured Alex Ainley and the versatile Richard Buckman moves to the right wing to replace the injured Waisake Naholo. Matt Faddes comes into the reserves as the Highlanders go with a conventional five forwards three backs combination this week.
This round of Super rugby celebrates that rugby is a game for everyone. The players will wear coloured laces representing that rugby is a game for all New Zealanders no matter who they are, what they look like, their beliefs or abilities.
Brown said: “We fully support the initiative; we absolutely need to play our part in showing that we embrace diversity. I believe rugby is a game for everyone regardless of shape, size, nationality, gender or whatever.”
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Sekonia Pole, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Matt Faddes
Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 17:35 local (6:35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)