Five Highlanders players could make their Vodacom Super Rugby debuts against the Blues on Saturday.
Bay of Plenty prop Kane Hames, Otago flanker Gareth Evans and Auckland centre Malakai Fekitoa will start a Super Rugby game for the first time, in Dunedin, while Otago prop Craig Millar and Argentinian front rower Matias Diaz could make their debuts off the bench.
Nasi Manu returns from a pectoral injury, which saw him sit out the pre-season, to co-captain the Highlanders along with All Black Ben Smith.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Photo: Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images