The Highlanders will field a weakened team against the Rebels, who need to win in Dunedin on Saturday to qualify for the Super Rugby quarter-finals at the Sharks’ expense.
The Highlanders are sixth on the combined log heading into the last round of conference matches, and only a huge win against the Rebels, and an equally big win by the Hurricanes over the Chiefs, would see them finish fifth.
Coach Aaron Mauger has, therefore, opted to make mass changes to his match 23, with All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock being rested.
Loose forward Elliot Dixon and hooker Ash Dixon are also taking the week off, leaving openside flanker James Lentjes to captain the team. Centre Rob Thompson is also missing.
The Rebels have picked their best available team in a bid to remain above the Sharks in eighth position and qualify for the playoffs for the first time.
If the Rebels do lose in Dunedin, the Sharks will have to beat the Jaguares in Durban to reach the quarter-finals.
Highlanders – 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 12 Tei Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Liam Squire, 7 James Lentjes (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jackson Hemopo, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Aki Seuili.
Subs: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Kalolo Tuiloma, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Dillon Hunt, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Matt Faddes, 23 Josh McKay.
Rebels – 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English (c), 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Sam Talaki, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Fereti Sa’aga Tetera Faulkner.
Subs: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Lopeti Timani.
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