Super Rugby match preview: Chiefs v Highlanders
Last Updated: 23/03/13 1:30pm
Friday's only game of Super Rugby sees the Chiefs return to Hamilton after their tour of South Africa to host the Highlanders.
A hat-trick from Lelia Masaga helped the Chiefs beat the Southern Kings last Friday while the Highlanders continued their poor start to the campaign by ending up on the wrong side of a see-saw battle against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Even the Chiefs loss against the Stormers in Cape Town yielded two crucial bonus points to leave them in second place, making the champions hot favourites to come out on top this weekend against the league's bottom side.
The Chiefs have been boosted by the news Ross Filipo will not be ruled out for the rest of the season after picking a serious knock to his knee against the Kings, with number eight Nick Crosswell starting in his place at the back of the pack.
Craig Clarke misses out after picking up a knock to the head last weekend, meaning Michael Fitzgerald takes his spot at lock. Pauliasi Manu is the other remaining change to the starting XV, coming in for Ben Afeaki.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders meanwhile welcome back Ma'a Nonu in the centres, with Liam Coltman, Josh Bekhuis and Jarrad Hoeata starting in the pack. Veteran prop Chris King will win his 100th Super Rugby cap packing down at tighthead.
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Romana Graham/Fritz Lee, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 August Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Richard Kahui/Patrick Osborne.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (c), 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.