A capacity crowd is expected to pack into FMG Stadium in Waikato on Saturday as the Chiefs battle it out against the Highlanders in their fifth home game of the Super Rugby season.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has named a potent line-up to take on last year’s Super Rugby champions.
There are just two changes to the starting XV that secured a 24-22 win over the Sharks in New Plymouth last Friday, with dynamic winger James Lowe and influential centre Charlie Ngatai returning from injury to start against the Highlanders.
There are further changes in the reserves with Michael Allardice and Maama Vaipulu recovering from injury to re-join the 23.
Counties Manukau utility back Sam Vaka is poised to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench. The agile 23-year-old adds an exciting edge to the reserves having previously played for the All Blacks Sevens team.
Head coach Dave Rennie said: “We’ve been working hard this week to prepare for a massive challenge on Saturday night. The Highlanders are very similar to us, they’ve got a group of guys who work hard for each other.
"With game-breakers across the park, they are the type of team that will sting you if you kick poorly or turn the ball over. It’ll be a hell of a spectacle with two very positive kiwi teams on display.”
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Kane Hames, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Sam Vaka
Date: Saturday, May 7
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock, Angus Mabey
TMO: Shane McDermott