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Highlanders gear up for South Island derby

Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger has named a near-full strength side for the upcoming South Island derby against the Crusaders.

The Dunedin-based franchise will be looking to keep their perfect record intact and capitalise against a depleted Crusaders side, who could potentially be without All Blacks Ryan Crotty and Sam Whitelock (concussion) as well as back row linchpin Pete Samu (shoulder).

There are two changes to the Highlanders’ starting side, with Tevita Li relieving Tevita Nabura on the left wing and loosehead prop Aki Seiuli earning his first start of the season, replacing Dan Lienert-Brown.

On the bench, co-captain Ash Dixon returns, as does loose forward Elliot Dixon who missed last week through concussion.

Counties Manukau prop Kalolo Tuiloma is in line for a Super Rugby debut as he enters the 23 in place of Tyrel Lomax.

Kayne Hammington replaces Josh Renton as the reserve halfback.

Aaron Mauger has plenty of talent at his disposal, with the backline firing on all cylinders during the early stages. Midfielder Rob Thompson has been a standout across the team’s first two fixtures, thrust into the outside centre spot in place of departed All Black Malakai Fekitoa.

The Highlanders are one of two undefeated teams left in the competition after both the Crusaders and Lions went down in week four.

They have lost their last three fixtures against the Crusaders, all coming last year.

HIGHLANDERS

1. Aki Seuli, 2. Liam Coltman, 3. Siate Tokolahi, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Dillon Hunt, 8. Luke Whitelock, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Tevita Li, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Ben Smith (C).
Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon (C), 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Kalolo Tuiloma, 19. Shannon Frizell, 20. Elliot Dixon, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Fletcher Smith, 23. Matt Faddes.

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Highlanders gear up for South Island derby | RugbyPass