Reigning Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes have named loose-head prop Loni Uhila and lock Mark Abbott in their starting line up to play the Chiefs.
The New Zealand Super Rugby derby match against the Chiefs takes place on Hamilton on Friday.
Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd has made just two changes to the team that started last Saturday’s win over the Melbourne Rebels in Wellington.
Uhila, popularly known as The Tongan Bear, pushes Chris Eves to the reserves and Mike Kainga out of the match day 23, while Abbott makes a straight swap with James Blackwell, who takes his place on the bench.
Uhila missed the opening two rounds of the season, against the Sunwolves and Rebels, due to a calf strain, while Abbott missed the trip to Japan due to personal reasons before entering the competition as a substitute against the Rebels.
“Loni and Abbo have both had slightly delayed starts to the season, but they’ve performed really well through the preseason and now they’re ready to enter the fray,” Boyd said. “That’s not a reflection on the guys who they’ve replaced, but just what we feel will be the best combination for this week.”
Boyd said he was expecting the Chiefs to provide a major step up in physicality and intensity from the opening two weeks.
“We are under no illusions what the Chiefs will bring to the table. We expect a really tough contest up front and at set piece and they also have plenty of threats in the backs. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Friday’s match represents the first between the two clubs since last year’s Investec Super Rugby semifinal in Wellington, which was won by the Hurricanes 25-9.
The team’s also met during the round robin in 2016 with the Chiefs winning a cliff hanger 28-27, also at Westpac Stadium.
The Hurricanes come into the match with two wins from two matches after beating the Sunwolves 83-17 in Tokyo and the Rebels 71-6 in Wellington.
The Chiefs have also won their opening two matches in 2017, beating the Highlanders 24-15 in Dunedin in week one, and the Blues, 41-26 in Hamilton in round two.
15 Nehe Milner-Skudder , 14 Vince Aso , 13 Matt Proctor , 12 Ngani Laumape , 11 Julian Savea , 10 Beauden Barrett , 9 TJ Perenara (vc) , 8 Reed Prinsep , 7 Ardie Savea , 6 Brad Shields , 5 Michael Fatialofa , 4 Mark Abbott , 3 Jeffery To’omaga-Allen , 2 Dane Coles (c) , 1 Loni Uhila
Replacements : Ricky Riccitelli, Chris Eves, Ben May, James Blackwell, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Otere Black, Jordie Barrett.