Injury forces Highlanders' hand
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: It is a short turnaround for the Highlanders as they prepare to face the Blues in a Super Rugby Aotearoa Round Eight match in Dunedin on Friday.
Coach Tony Brown has made minimal changes to the side that went down to the Chiefs in extra time last weekend.
The most significant changes have been forced by injury – with Injury to Pari Pari Parkinson.
Josh Dickson comes into the second row.
Exciting rookie Connor Garden-Bachop has been ruled out for the season, after fracturing his wrist last Friday.
Josh Ioane will take his place at fullback in an otherwise unchanged backline.
Both starting props from last week have been rotated to the bench – allowing Ayden Johnstone and Siate Tokolahi first crack at a strong Blues scrum.
Billy Harmon and James Lentjes trade places and Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Marino Mikaele Tu’u and Michael Collins come onto the bench for a must-win game for the Highlanders.
Players unavailable due to injury include Daniel Lienert-Brown (arm), Pari Pari Parkinson (ankle) – while Jermaine Ainsley (ankle), Fetuli Paea (ankle), Freedom Vaahakalo (foot), Folau Fakatava (knee), Thomas Umaga-Jensen (wrist), Connor Garden-Bachop (wrist), Liam Squire (knee) have all suffered season-ending injuries.
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Ngatungane Punivai, 13 Patelesio Tomkinson, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 James Lentjes.
Date: Friday, April 16
Venue: Otago Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, James Doleman
TMO: Ben O’Keeffe