Highlanders Super rugby head coach Aaron Mauger’s team selections this week to play the Crusaders have been influenced by a refresh for the front row and injuries,
Impressive rookie winger, Sam Gilbert, who sustained a season-ending knee injury has been replaced by Ngatungane Punivai on the right-wing and the experienced Michael Collins will play at fullback.
“Michael is a great communicator, reads a game well and will organise the back three” said Highlanders assistant coach, Tony Brown.
In the forwards a strong Crusaders scrum will be met by a new starting front row of Daniel Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman and Jeff Thwaites.
“We are fortunate to have some depth in our front row so we have the ability to make changes, this is a tough competition and as always the Crusaders will present a real challenge on Saturday night,” said forwards coach, Clarke Dermody.
Elsewhere, lock Jack Whetton will get an opportunity off the bench and the mercurial Vilimoni Koroi will cover the back three. The team will be co-captained by Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon.
15 Michael Collins, 14 Ngane Punivai, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Jeff Thwaites, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Vilimoni Koroi