The Highlanders have returned from South Africa, but on Saturday they will face a third consecutive South African opponent in the conference-leading Lions.
29-year-old Smith has been rested, with Kayne Hammington and Josh Renton providing cover. James Lentjes will play at seven with All Black Dillon Hunt earning a break while Fijian winger Tevita Nabura will make his second appearance of the season on the left wing. Josh Dickson and Marino Mikaele Tu’u will provide fresh legs off the bench.
Mauger is glad to be back at Forsyth Barr Stadium, “we are all looking forward to the opportunity to be back at home to meet the significant challenge the Lions will provide.”
The Lions will be without star Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx, who leads the team with seven tries and five breakdown steals. 23-year-old Marx suffered a high-grade hamstring tendon tear against the Hurricanes last weekend and is unlikely to feature for at least six weeks, ruling him out of South Africa’s June test series against England.
The last time the pair met in Dunedin was in round three of the 2016 season, where the Lions ventured into Forsyth Barr Stadium and were defeated by the Highlanders 34-15.
They later met in the competition’s semi-final, where the Lions hosted the Highlanders and dispatched the Kiwi side 42-30 at Ellis Park to earn a spot in the Super Rugby final.
1. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2. Liam Coltman, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. Alex Ainley, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Elliot Dixon, 7. James Lentjes, 8. Luke Whitelock, 9. Kayne Hammington, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Tevita Nabura, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Ben Smith (C).
Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon (C), 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Kalolo Tuiloma, 19. Josh Dickson, 20. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 21. Josh Renton, 22. Josh Ioane, 23. Patelesio Tomkinson.
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