Highlanders bench All Black Smith
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The impact of mid-season All Blacks camps is being felt by the Highlanders, who had seven players attend a camp in Christchurch on Monday.
Star halfback Aaron Smith has been benched in favour of Kayne Hammington, suggesting that the disruptions have played a part in selections.
It will be the first time this season Aaron Smith doesn’t start for the Highlanders, while other returning All Blacks Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Luke Whitelock and Dillon Hunt will retain their starting positions.
"We just feel [Kayne] is the right man for the job this week," head coach Aaron Mauger said.
"It’s also a short week for us, and we had seven guys away at an All Black camp on Monday, so they have only had one training with the team this week,"
"Kayne has done a great job leading the team for the first few days this week, and we’ve got the captain’s run tomorrow before we head up to Auckland. I’m sure he’ll be ready to fire come Friday,"
The Highlanders will be looking to continue the Blues misery against fellow New Zealand sides, who have won just one of the last 25 clashes. The sides met in their season openers, where the Highlanders outlasted the Blues in a classic derby in Dunedin.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Alex Ainley, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.
Date: Friday, April 20
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey, Mike Lash
TMO: Ben Skeen