Super Rugby 2020: Highlanders name twin playmakers in youthful backline

Josh Ioane and Mitch Hunt
Josh Ioane and Mitch Hunt Photo credit: Images: Photosport

The departures of Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo has seen a rethink at the Highlanders.

Coach Aaron Mauger has named a youthful backline for their Super Rugby season-opener against the Sharks in Dunedin on Friday.

All Blacks first-five-in-waiting Josh Ioane will start at second-five, allowing a Highlanders No.10 debut for Mitch Hunt, who has travelled south from the Crusaders.

Selecting the two talented pivots in the starting XV suggests the Highlanders brains trust are keen on dual playmakers to run a backline rich with gamebreakers.

All Blacks stalwart Aaron Smith starts at halfback, with explosive Rob Thompson selected at centre. 

Former sevens star Jona Nareki and powerful Tasman ball-runner Tima Fainga'anuku start on the wings, with Josh McKay beating out Michael Collins for the No.15 jersey.

World Cup All Black Shannon Frizell is on a minutes restriction, meaning a start off the bench for the loose forward powerhouse.

Exciting No.8 Marino Mikaele Tu'u will start alongside skipper Jame Lentjes and one-test All Black Dillon Hunt in the loose forwards.

Liam Coltman has won the hooker berth ahead of Ash Dixon, while former Chiefs second-rower Jesse Parete will make his HIghlanders debut off the bench, with Paripari Parkinson and Josh Dickson locking the scrum. 

Highlanders: 1-Ayden Johnstone, 2-Liam Coltman, 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Paripari Parkinson, 5-Josh Dixon, 6-Dillon Hunt, 7-James Lentjes, 8-Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Josh Ioane, 13-Ron Thompson, 14-Tima Fainga'anuku, 15-Josh McKay 

Reserves: 16-Ash Dixon, 17-Daniel Liernert-Brown, 18-Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19-Jesse Parete, 20-Shannon Frizell, 21-Kayne Hamington, 22-Michael Collins, 23-Teariki Ben-Nicholas

Join Newshub for live updates of the Highlanders v Sharks from 7:30pm Friday.