Despite putting out their best performance of the year against the Crusaders last weekend, Tony Brown has made significant changes to the Highlanders for their rematch with the Chiefs.

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Brown has regularly tinkered with his side through this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, making seven changes on average from week to week.

He’s technically bucked the trend slightly for Saturday’s match with the Chiefs, making just six swaps.

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In the forwards, Josh Hohneck rotates with Siate Tokolahi – who’d started every match this season to date – and James Lentjes comes in for former Crusader Billy Harmon.

Japan international Kazuki Himeno maintains his spot at number eight after an energetic performance against the Crusaders. The evergreen Bryn Evans will lock the scrum with Pari Pari Parkinson and Hugh Renton will again be the sixth forward on the reserves bench.

In the backs, Aaron Smith will co-captain the side and his back up at halfback will be Kayne Hammington who replaces the unlucky Folau Fakatava, who’s set to spend the remainder of the year on the sidelines following a major ACL injury suffered in last weekend’s win.

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Outside back Scott Gregory, who had perhaps his best performance in a Highlanders jersey last week, will move to the midfield to replace the injured Thomas Umaga-Jensen and he will be partnered by Patelesio Tomkinson at centre.

Ngatugnane Punivai, meanwhile, is over his hamstring issue and takes his place on the right wing.

Josh Ioane, one of six players who were unavailable for selection last weekend following a breach of team protocol, returns to the reserves. Tomkinson is the only other player from that sextet who has returned to the fold to face the Crusaders.

The Highlanders scored a significant 39-23 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton earlier this season despite being down by 19 points late in the first half.

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Playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday, the ball will undoubtedly be given plenty of air as the home side look for their third win of the competition.

Highlanders: Connor Garden-Bachop, Ngatungane Punivai, Patelesio Tomkinson, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith, Kazuki Himeno, James Lentjes, Shannon Frizell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Bryn Evans, Josh Hohneck, Ash Dixon, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Billy Harmon, Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Hugh Renton.

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:

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