Official team lists and injury news for this week's round of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Highlanders v Blues
7:05pm Friday, March 16
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Josh Ioane will take up the Highlanders fullback role for the clash with the Blues on Friday night.
The one-test All Black missed the shock win over the Crusaders a fortnight ago, but returned off the bench in last week's golden-point loss to the Chiefs.
Ioane replaces exciting rookie Connor Garden-Bachop, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.
That marks the only backline change, although coach Tony Brown has mixed things up in the pack.
Josh Dickson comes in at lock for Pari Pari Parkinson, while props Ayden Johnstone and Siate Tokolahi are promoted into the starting line-up after coming off the bench against the Chiefs.
Billy Harmon and James Lentjes have also been included, as the Highlanders look to extend their playoff hopes into the final two weeks of the season.
The match will be played for the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy.
Highlanders: 1-Ayden Johnstone, 2-Ash Dixon (cc), 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Bryn Evans, 5-Josh Dickson, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Billy Harmon, 8-Kazuki Himeno, 9-Aaron Smith (cc), 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Scott Gregory, 13-Patelsio Tomkinson, 14-Ngataungane Punivai, 15-Josh Ioane
Reserves: 16-Liam Coltman, 17-Ethan De Groot, 18-Josh Hohneck, 19-Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20-Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 21-Kayne Hammington, 22-Michael Collins, 23-James Lentjes
Patrick Tuipulotu's ongoing recovery from a neck injury means combative loose forward Tom Robinson continues to lead the Blues.
The Northland flanker skippered the franchise for the first time in the Blues' tight win over the Hurricanes last week and will once again lead them out for Friday night's clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Ofa Tuungafasi will play his 100th game for the Blues, propping the scrum alongside fellow All Black Karl Tu'inukuafe, with Lutero Tolai at hooker.
Akira Ioane will provide impact off the bench, with coach Leon MacDonald opting for Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii and Robinson as his loose-forward trio.
In the backline, Jonathan Ruru is back in the No.9 jersey, while TJ Faiane retains his spot at second-five, ahead of Harry Plummer.
Blues: 1-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2-Lutero Tolai, 3-Ofa Tuungafasi, 4-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5-Sam Drury, 6-Tom Robinson. 7-Dalton Papalii, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 9-Jonathan Ruru, 10-Otere Black, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-TJ Faiane, 13-Rieko Ioane, 14-Mark Telea, 15-Stephen Perofeta
Reserves: 16-Leni Apisai, 17-Alex Hodgman, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Josh Goodhue, 20-Akira Ioane, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Harry Plummer, 23-Bryce Heem
Chiefs v Crusaders
7:05pm Saturday, April 17
FMG Stadium, Hamilton
The Chiefs have handed Damian McKenzie the reins for their clash against the Crusaders, naming the mercurial playmaker at first-five.
McKenzie, 25, will start in the No.10 jersey, after predominantly wearing 15 so far in 2021. The role isn't unfamiliar for the All Blacks utility, who has switched between fullback and first-five already this season.
In McKenzie's absence, Chase Tiatia will start at fullback, as the Chiefs hope to upset the runaway competition leaders.
Lachlan Boshier returns to the No.7 jersey for his first start of the year, at the expense of younger brother Kaylum, who moves to the bench.
Alex Nankivell moves into the No.12 jersey in place of the injured Quinn Tupaea, as All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris makes his long-awaited return off the bench.
Chiefs: 1-Aidan Ross, 2-Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3-Angus Ta'avao, 4-Tupou Vaa'i, 5-Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 6-Mitchell Brown, 7-Lachlan Boshier, 8-Luke Jacobson, 9-Brad Weber (c), 10-Damian McKenzie, 11-Etene Nanai-Seturo, 12-Alex Nankivell, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 14-Jonah Lowe, 15-Chase Tiatia
Reserves: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Ollie Norris, 18-Sione Mafileo, 19-Pita Gus Sowakula, 20-Kaylum Boshier, 21-Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22-Bryn Gatland, 23-Sean Wainui
Despite a mounting injury toll, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson will rest All Blacks Sam Whitelock and Cullen Grace against the Chiefs, leaving just one current international player in his revamped forward pack.
Captain Scott Barrett will move from the second row to the blindside flank, while hooker Codie Taylor will come off the bench.
George Bower will replace Joe Moody, after the All Blacks prop limped off with a foot injury against the Hurricanes last week. Leicester Fainga'anuku takes Jack Goodhue's No.13 jersey, after the NZ midfielder's season-ending knee injury.
Halfback Mitch Drummond will lead the team out for his 100th Super Rugby outing, after debuting for the Crusaders against Melbourne Rebels in 2014.
Crusaders: 1-George Bower, 2-Brodie McAlister, 3-Michael Alaalatoa, 4-Mitchell Dunshea, 5-Quinten Strange, 6-Scott Barrett (c), 7-Tom Sanders, 8-Ethan Blackadder, 9-Mitchell Drummond, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 11-George Bridge, 12-David Havili, 13-Leicester Fainga'anuku, 14-Sevu Reece, 15-Will Jordan
Reserves: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Isi Tu'ungafasi, 18-Oli Jager, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Sione Havili Talitui, 21-Bryn Hall, 22-Dallas McLeod, 23-Manasa Mataele
Join us at 7pm Friday for live updates of the Highlanders v Blues Super Rugby Aotearoa clash