Rookie flank starts for Highlanders

Date published: June 25 2015

The Highlanders have named inexperienced openside flanker James Lentjes in their starting XV to face the Waratahs in Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final in Sydney.

Lentjes, who made his Super Rugby debut in March this year, fills the gap left by the injured Dan Pryor (dislocated elbow).

The former Crusaders development loose forward played eight games for Otago in the ITM Cup last year. He was called into the Highlanders team to cover for injuries earlier in the season and has showed a lot of promise in his four games to date.

The 24-year-old's inclusion is the only change to the starting line up that beat the Chiefs in last Saturday's qualifying final as coach Jamie Joseph decided against the option of handing a first game of the campaign to more experienced flanker Shane Christie, who has been sidelined all year with hamstring problems but is now fit.

The team also welcomes back experienced lock Joe Wheeler from a lengthy injury break to take his place on the bench alongside Trent Renata. Renata replaces the versatile Marty Banks, who took a head knock during the week and while working through the concussion protocols is unavailable for action this week.

The team will again be captained by the experienced duo of Ben Smith and Nasi Manu who will be playing their 104th and 80th games respectively.

Highlanders:15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds. 
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Shaun Treeby.

Date: Saturday, June 27
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:55 local (09:55 GMT, 11:55 SAST, 21:55 NZST)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees, James Leckie
TMO: George Ayoub