All Blacks scrum half Aaron Smith has been recalled to the starting lineup and will lead the Highlanders against the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua in their Super Rugby Pacific clash at the ANZ Stadium in Suva on Saturday.
It will also be the first time the Drua play at home in Fiji, after having been based in Australia since last year, with coach Tony Brown expecting a physical contest.
“We are expecting a tough encounter, the Drua play an exciting and unpredictable style and will need to be at our best for the full eighty,” Brown told superrugby.co.nz
The match will be important for both sides, as they head into the match with one win each.
“There are so many unique aspects to this game for both teams.
“We are expecting a very determined Fijian Drua team to turn up on Saturday, they will have plenty of home support from passionate fans that will be seeing their team at home for the very first time.”
Smith returns to the captainship, with includes a new look loose forward trio, with Marino Mikaele-Tu’u returning at number 8, Christian Lio-Willie in the number 6 jersey and Billy Harmon at openside flanker.
The clash will also be special for Brown as he coaches his 100th Highlanders game and starting hooker Andrew Makalio will run on for his 50th Super Rugby game.
Highlanders v Fijian Drua kicks off at 4.35pm.
Highlanders starting team (1-15): Daniel Lienert-Brown, Andrew Makalio, Jermaine Ainsley, Bryn Evans, Sam Caird, Christian Lio-Willie, Billy Harmon, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Aaron Smith (C), Mitch Hunt, Scott Gregory, Fetuli Paea, Thomas Umaga, Sam Gilbert , Connor Garden Bachop.
Reserves- Rhys Marshall, Ethan de Groot, Josh Hohneck, Max Hicks, James Lentjes, Folau Fakatava, Marty Banks, Hugh Renton
By Noa Biudole