All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith will start for the Highlanders in their opening Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Sharks in Dunedin on Friday.
The Highlanders have opted to start with Smith at scrumhalf despite New Zealand Rugby orders not to give All Blacks over 180 match minutes in their first three games of the season.
This means that Smith could be substituted at half time at the earliest, with Kayne Hammington named as his replacement.
Elsewhere in the backline, coach Aaron Mauger has opted for an interesting midfield combination, with Josh Ioane starting at outside centre, away from his preferred position at flyhalf.
Former Crusaders player Mitch Hunt has been handed the No 10 jersey. There is a Super Rugby debut for former New Zealand Sevens star Jona Nareki on the left wing.
The Highlanders have opted for two fetchers in their loose trio in captain James Lentjes and Dillon Hunt.
There is a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the bench, with both Shannon Frizell and Teariki Ben-Nicholas named as substitutes.
*Have you signed up to our newsletter? Click here to join the thousands of readers who are part of our newsletter community.
Highlanders – 15 Josh McKay, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 James Lentjes (c), 6 Dillon Hunt, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas.
Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images