The Highlanders will be without fly-half Lima Sopoaga for three weeks, with Hayden Parker wearing number ten against the Lions on Saturday.
In-form Sopoaga is out of action until Round 15 due to an ankle sprain as boss Jamie Joseph is forced to make changes for their homecoming.
Outside Parker will be Phil Burleigh, who comes in for Shaun Treeby at twelve, while Jason Emery is given a start on the wing ahead of Trent Renata.
Liam Coltman is benched so Ged Robinson is the starting hooker while Shane Christie is back on the openside flank in place of John Hardie.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Jason Emery, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Chris King.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Kane Hames, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Gareth Evans.
Date: Saturday, May 10
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)