Super Rugby 2020: Highlanders make three changes for Brumbies clash

The Highlanders have made three changes to their starting side to face the unbeaten Brumbies in Canberra, as they seek their first win of the Super Rugby season. 

The Dunedin-based side are last in the New Zealand conference, after a first-week bye and a 42-20 loss to the Sharks in their season-opener last weekend, and they face another tough challenge against one of four unbeaten sides on Saturday. 

Towering lock Pari Pari Parkinson has been ruled out with an ankle injury, so Jesse Parete starts alongside Josh Dickson in the second row.

Also among the forwards, All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell returns at openside flanker, with one-test All Black Dillon Hunt shifting to the reserves.

The only backline change sees Sio Tomkinson replace Tima Fainga'anuku on the right wing. 

The Highlanders retain their twin playmakers, with All Blacks first-five-in-waiting Josh Ioane starting at second-five, allowing Mitch Hunt to stay in the No.10 jersey. 

On the bench, Irish prop Conan O'Donnell is in line for his Highlanders debut, replacing Jeff Thwaites in the reserves. 

Coach Aaron Mauger expects a tough challenge against the Australian conference leaders, although the Highlanders have won the last four meetings between the two sides.  

"They are a tough team to play in Canberra and have a strong home record over the last few seasons," he said. "We are expecting a physical encounter on Saturday. 

"We took some positives out of our second-half performance last week, so we now have a good opportunity to build on that this round against the Brumbies."

Despite the Highlanders' impressive recent record over Australian opponents, the Brumbies have won 10 straight games at Canberra Stadium.

Highlanders: 1-Ayden Johnstone, 2-Liam Coltman, 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Jesse Parete, 5-Josh Dixon, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-James Lentjes (c), 8-Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Josh Ioane, 13-Ron Thompson, 14-Patelesio Tomkinson, 15-Josh McKay 

Reserves: 16-Ash Dixon, 17-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18-Conan O'Donnell 19-Jack Whetton, 20-Dillon Hunt, 21-Kayne Hamington, 22-Michael Collins, 23-Teariki Ben-Nicholas

Join us for live updates of the Highlanders v Brumbies Super Rugby clash from 9:15pm Saturday