Highlanders Head Coach Aaron Mauger has named a strong side to take on the Chiefs in Fiji.
Siate Tokolahi returns at tighthead prop for his first match since injuring himself in the round nine clash against the Blues. New All Black Jackson Hemopo partners Tom Franklin in the middle row while the quality of the starting back row means All Black Shannon Frizell will make his mark on the game from the bench. Fellow All Black Liam Squire is missing through injury.
In the backs, the old firm of Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga will steer the ship and the midfield partnership of Teihorangi Walden and Rob Thompson is maintained. The back three of Ben Smith, Tevita Li and Waisake Naholo should provide plenty of entertainment for the Suva crowd.
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It will be a very special occasion for Waisake Naholo who would never have imagined when he played his first game for the Highlanders against the Crusaders under the roof in 2015 that he would play his 50th Super Rugby game in front of his own countrymen, family and friends in Suva, Fiji. The sparkling winger and Highlanders top try scorer will no doubt be as popular in ANZ Stadium Suva as he is at Forsyth Barr in Dunedin.
The prospect of playing in Fiji does not phase Head Coach Mauger.
“We have known since the start of the year we were playing the Chiefs in Suva and we know to be a consistent team we have to be able to perform at any time, in any conditions, anywhere. This is a great opportunity; the team is focussed on delivering a good performance for our supporters and the rugby public of Fiji,” he said.
1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2. Ash Dixon (C), 3. Siate Tokolahi, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Elliot Dixon, 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 (CC).
Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Alex Ainley, 20. Shannon Frizell, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Josh Ioane, 23. Richard Buckman.
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