Highlanders half back Aaron Smith will mark his 100th Super Rugby cap this weekend when the Highlanders host the Rebels in Dunedin.
Smith, Highlander #175, debuted in 2011 against the Bulls in Pretoria and has been a regular selection ever since.
Renowned as one of the best passing halfbacks in the game he debuted for the All Blacks in 2012 and has been capped 62 times. His efforts for both the All Blacks and Highlanders in 2014 saw him recognised with the Tom French Memorial Trophy for Maori Player of the Year.
He becomes the fifth player behind Anton Oliver (127), Jimmy Cowan (108), Chris King (106) and Ben Smith (123) to play 100 games for the Pulse Energy Highlanders.
Head Coach, Tony Brown, was full of praise for his halfback, “Aaron has been the best 9 in the world for some time now and is such an important part of our game. It’s fantastic that he gets to clock up a 100 games for the club, he joins a small group of amazing rugby players and he deserves his place in that company, he’s earned his selection in every one of those 100 games through hard work and consistency of performance.”
Smith will be presented with a pounamu mere – the New Zealand Rugby gift for centurions – on Friday night following the conclusion of the game.
Smith will partner with Marty Banks in the halves as Fletcher Smith moves to the bench and Tevita Li returns to the wing to replace a well performed Sio Tomkinson.
The forwards have Aki Seiuli, Joe Wheeler and Gareth Evans moving from last week’s bench to the starting team and in the reserves, Elliot Dixon and Daniel Lienert-Brown, get a break from the starting lineup this week.
Tupou Sopoaga will make his debut appearance if required.
Liam Squire, Shane Christie, Ash Dixon, Dan Pryor, Lima Sopoaga, Waisake Naholo, Adrian Smith, James Lentjes (out for the season: Jason Emery, Hayden Parker) were all unavailable due to injury.
1. Aki Seiuli , 2. Liam Coltman , 3. Siate Tokolahi , 4. Joe Wheeler , 5. Tom Franklin , 6. Gareth Evans , 7. Dillon Hunt , 8. Luke Whitelock , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Marty Banks , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Richard Buckman , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Tevita Li , 15. Ben Smith (c)
Replacements : 16. Greg Pleasants-Tate , 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown , 18. Siosuia Halanukonuka , 19. Elliot Dixon , 20. Tupou Sopoaga , 21. Kayne Hammington , 22. Fletcher Smith , 23. Matt Faddes