The Highlanders will have a new captain and welcome back two experienced players for the big Southern derby game against the Crusaders on Saturday.
Ben Smith is sidelined this week which means his All Black team-mate Elliot Dixon will captain the side. Dixon has played 64 games for the Highlanders since debuting in 2012.
“Elliot is an experienced campaigner who always gives 100 percent and will lead the team by example, I know he’s pretty excited about the opportunity to skipper the side,” said head coach Tony Brown.
In other changes, Richard Buckman will replace Smith at full-back having returned from the Japan League a few weeks ago with Joe Wheeler.
Wheeler will make his first appearance in 2017 from the bench. Siosuia Halanukonuka will start at tighthead with Siate Tokolahi moving to the bench and Patrick Osborne takes Matt Faddes’ place in the 23.
Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Adrian Smith, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Patrick Osborne
Date: Saturday, March 4
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)