All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu will make his Highlanders debut when his adopted team take on the Crusaders in Oamaru.
Friday's pre-season hit-out also sees Nonu's fellow All Blacks colleague and former Blues prop Tony Woodcock scrum down for the first time in a Highlanders jersey, while scrum-half Aaron Smith has also been named to start.
Woodcock will be joined in the front row by hooker Brayden Mitchell and Ma'a Fia.
And in a boost to the Highlanders ongoing injury woes, flanker John Hardie returns to the field for the first time since injuring his foot prior to last year's ITM Cup.
Still missing for the Highlanders, however, are Colin Slade (broken leg), Nasi Manu (hamstring), Jake Paringatai (hand), Chris King and Tamati Ellison (both shoulder injuries).
All Blacks winger Hosea Gear will lead the team for the second week running.
Highlanders: 15 Buxton Popoali'i, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear (c), 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements (from): Jason Emery, Hayden Parker, Fumiaki Tanaka, Shaun Treeby, Frae Wilson, Hugh Blake, Liam Coltman, Tom Franklin, Paul Grant, Jamie Mackintosh, Bronson Murray.