Osborne back for trans-Tasman showdown
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Highlanders coach Tony Brown made three changes to his starting line-up for their match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
He welcomed back Patrick Osborne from injury, gave young Otago back Sio Tomkinson his first start in a Highlanders jersey and the hard-working Alex Ainley returned to the engine room.
On the bench Greg Pleasants-Tate joined Siosuia Halanukonuka, returning from injury.
"It's good to get Pat, Greg and Siua back - as it is going to be a real test for the team this week," Brown said of the trip across the Tasman Sea.
"The Brumbies in Canberra is one of the toughest challenges in the game and history tells us we don't perform that well there so we will need to be on our game," Brown added.
While Tomkinson will be playing his first match, Aaron Smith will be playing his 99th and look set to bring up his 100th next week against the Rebels.
Those unavailable due to injury include Liam Squire, Shane Christie, Ash Dixon, Dan Pryor, Lima Sopoaga, Waisake Naholo, Adrian Smith, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes.
Jason Emery and Hayden Parker are have been ruled out for the season.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Matt Faddes.
Date: Saturday, March 25
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 AEDT (21.45 NZDT; 08.45 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)