Highlanders Super rugby head coach Aaron Mauger has named his team to play the Chiefs in the Super rugby season opening match against the Chiefs at Waikato stadium in Hamilton.
Mauger has selected largely the forward pack that has started in the preseason games. Loosehead prop, Ayden Johnstone, will make his Super Rugby debut alongside All Blacks Liam Coltman and Tyrel Lomax.
The locking duo of Josh Dickson and Pari Pari Parkinson, while relatively light on experience, will add plenty of size to the forwards at 2.0m and 2.04m respectively.
Regular lock from last season, Jackson Hemopo, will play on the blindside and the pack will be led by number eight and co-captain, Luke Whitelock.
Kayne Hammington, following good preseason form, will start at halfback and young Otago pivot, Josh Ioane, will take the responsibility of moving his team round the field and will partner in the midfield with the strong running Thomas Umaga-Jensen (earning just his second cap).
The experienced Tevita Li, Matt Faddes and Ben Smith complete the back three. A strong bench featuring All Blacks Dillon Hunt, Shannon Frizell and Aaron Smith should add some impact later on in the game.
“Clearly we are excited about the season getting underway, we have been counting down to this moment and we are looking forward to the opportunity of putting all the preseason hard work into an eighty-minute performance on Friday night against the Chiefs”, said Mauger.
1. Ayden Johnstone,2. Liam Coltman,3. Tyrel Lomax,4. Pari Pari Parkinson,5. Josh Dickson,6. Jackson Hemopo,7. James Lentjes,8. Luke Whitelock (cc),9. Kayne Hammington,10. Josh Ioane,11 Tevita Li,12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen,13. Rob Thompson,14. Matt Faddes,15. Ben Smith (cc)
Replacements : 16. Ash Dixon,,17. Daniel Lienert-Brown,18. Siate Tokolahi,19. Shannon Frizell,20. Dillon Hunt,21. Aaron Smith,22. Bryn Gatland,23. Patelesio Tomkinson