Highlanders head coach Tony Brown has refreshed his forward pack and welcomes back All Black loose forward Liam Squire and captain Ben Smith for their clash with the Blues.
Preparing for what will no doubt be a physical encounter Brown has restored Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Alex Ainley and Elliot Dixon to the starting eight. Squire makes his return after four weeks on the sideline and will make an impact from the bench.
"It’s good to welcome Ben and Liam back because as we all know the NZ derby matches are incredibly intense games , you have to be at your very best to come away with the win. Being at home this time in front of our fans, on a dry track, will hopefully help us put on a big performance." said Brown.
The Gordon Hunter Memorial trophy has been played for between the two teams since 2002. Hunter coached Otago from 1992 to1995 and the Highlanders in the inaugural year of Super Rugby in 1996. He then went on to become a selector and assistant coach of the All Blacks from 1996 to 1999 before becoming the head coach of the Blues in 2000.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Tevita Li, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes
Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19:35 local (09:35 GMT)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)