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Highlanders hand Ngane Punivai a debut in the midfield while Dillon Hunt takes over from injured captain

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Ngane Punivai. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith will co-captain the Highlanders against the Bulls on Saturday night in the absence of regular squad Captain, James Lentjes, who has been sidelined for the season following a nasty injury to his ankle that occurred during last week’s match against the Rebels.


Dixon and Smith make the step up from co-cice Captains and will provide plenty of experience for the younger members of the team as they prepare to take on the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

Experience returns to the starting XV in the form of All Blacks hooker Liam Coltman and fellow All Black Shannon Frizell, who is back from his rest week.

Young Southland lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit comes into the middle row for Jack Whetton who moves to the bench and Dillon Hunt replaces the injured James Lentjes.

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There’s just one change in the backs with Ngane Punivai set to make his debut in the midfield. The hard-running centre has worked his way back from a knee injury to take the place of Rob Thompson in an otherwise settled back combination including Mitch Hunt who will play his 50th Super Rugby game, having previously played for the Crusaders.


Head coach Aaron Mauger is his happy for his milestone players, “Ngane has worked incredibly hard since his arrival and his selection is reward for all that hard work and Mitch has been a class player for some time now and to play 50 Super Rugby games is a significant achievement for him.”

Highlanders: Michael Collins, Josh McKay, Ngane Punivai, Josh Ioane, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (c), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Dillon Hunt, Shannon Frizell, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Jesse Parete, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Ash Dixon (cc), Daniel Lienert-Brown, Jeff Thwaites, Jack Whetton, Teariki-Ben Nicholas, Kayne Hammington, Teihorani Walden, Time Fainga’anuku.


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