Super Rugby match preview: Highlanders v Blues
Last Updated: 01/06/13 11:03am
The Highlanders have made six changes to their squad ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby encounter against the Blues in Dunedin.
All Blacks duo Aaron Smith and Ma'a Nonu have been reduced to the bench following last weekend's defeat to the Western Force with Fumiaki Tanaka and Shaun Treeby promoted to the starting XV.
Other changes in the backs see Colin Slade take the number 10 jersey with Hayden Parker left out of the squad while Trent Renata starts on the right wing in place of Jason Emery.
In the forwards Jamie Mackintosh starts at loosehead prop while Jarred Hoeata is given the nod in the flanks.
Meanwhile Sir John Kirwan has made five changes to his Blues squad in the aftermath of their 20-13 loss to the Brumbies.
James Parsons will start at hooker with Keven Mealamu on the bench having spent time with the All Blacks earlier in the week; while lock Anthony Boric will make his second start of the season in place of Culum Retallick.
Flanker Steven Luatua has recovered from a neck injury to take his place in the starting line-up after a short spell on the sidlelines.
In the backs, Baden Kerr starts for only the second time this season with Chris Noakes unavailable while Waisake Naholo gets the nod ahead of George Moala.
Saturday's clash will also see the duo battle for the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy in honour of the former All Black who coached both the Blues and Highlanders.
Highlanders:15 Ben Smith, 14 Trent Renata, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Mose Tuiali'I, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (capt), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements:16 Liam Coltman, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Ma'a Nonu.
Blues:15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements:16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 Jackson Willison.
What they said...
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan
"We know the Highlanders have just been missing so they can make their season by beating us. We can't let that happen, we've got to put our season back on track and get back up the points table and stay in touch.
"If we do that this weekend then we're back in contention for the top six so there's a lot riding on it."