Smith to make history in Christchurch
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Highlanders take on the unbeaten Crusaders on Saturday off the back of nine consecutive wins, for virtually the first time this season they will be picking from almost their full squad.
Head coach Tony Brown has reinstated Daniel Lienert-Brown to the front row and promoted Gareth Evans to the starting line-up after a number of good performances in recent weeks.
James Lentjes comes back on the openside following an elbow injury that sidelined him for three months, taking the place of Dillon Hunt who gets a well-earned break.
The well performed Rob Thompson comes in at inside centre this week pushing utility back Richard Buckman to the left wing; otherwise, the starting backline remains the same as the one that performed well against the Waratahs. Plenty of strike power on the bench with All Blacks Elliot Dixon and Lima Sopoaga and Matt Faddes returns as outside back cover.
Captain Ben Smith will play his 128th Super game for the Highlanders and become its most capped player ahead of Anton Oliver.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Richard Buckman, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Matt Faddes.
Date: Saturday, June 3
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 14.35 (02.35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Doleman (New Zealand), Michael Winter (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)