Canterbury wing Sam Gilbert will make his Highlanders debut in the Vodacom Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday.
The 1,9m Gilbert – who played for the New Zealand U20 side in the Junior World Championships last year – has leapfrogged teammate Josh McKay to make his first-ever Super Rugby appearance.
He takes his place in a revamped back three with Mitch Hunt named at fullback alongside left wing Jona Nareki.
The Highlanders are still without star signing Nehe Milner-Skudder as he is working his way back from his long-term shoulder injury and expected to return in the third or fourth round of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Josh Ioane has reclaimed the starting flyhalf spot – after spending the early parts of the year in the midfield – and forms the halfback combination with All Black Aaron Smith.
The Highlanders will be captained by Ash Dixon, with All Blacks hooker Liam Coltman named on the bench.
Highlanders – 15 Mitch Hunt, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Teihorangi Walden, 23 Vilimoni Koroi.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images