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Super Rugby: Chiefs v Highlanders match preview
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The Chiefs have made six changes to their team to play the Highlanders at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday with flanker Tanerau Latimer starting.
Latimer has recovered from a rolled ankle to bolster the Super Rugby champions, who have a long injury list following last week's 18-10 victory over the Crusaders.
Latimer's return on the flank means Liam Messam moves to number eight to replace Kane Thompson, who picked up an ankle injury in Christchurch.
The Chiefs coaches have been consistent in their process of giving players a chance when depth prevails which will see Pauliasi Manu start at prop and Jamie Mackintosh move to the bench.
Mahonri Schwalger will make his long awaited return to rugby since sitting out the 2013 ITM Cup. Lock Matt Symons and flanker Nick Crosswell come into the starting line-up. Tawera Kerr-Barlow has recovered from a rolled ankle to start at scrum-back in an otherwise unchanged backline.
The side also features the inclusion of full-back Mils Muliaina, who left the field last week with an elbow injury, raising doubts over his availability for this weekend.
After blooding in seven new Chiefs last week, including five Super Rugby debutants, that number will increase this week with Liam Squire having his chance to make his debut off the bench. The new additions to the reserves this week are hooker Rhys Marshall, prop Josh Hohneck and Tevita Koloamatangi.
"I was really impressed with the passion and the physicality that the Highlanders played with last week," said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.
"I really felt they outmuscled and outenthused the Blues, so it will be another entertaining New Zealand derby match on Saturday."
Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph has made a handful of changes to his line-up.
With Brad Thorn out injured, Jarrad Hoeata moves into the four jersey and Joe Wheeler, who is returning from a compound fracture in his finger, wears five.
John Hardie is back in the starting XV and a re-shuffle in the backline to cover injured winger Patrick Osborne sees Malakai Fekitoa move to the left wing and Winston Stanley into centre. This will be Stanley's debut for the Highlanders after playing for the Western Force from 2012.
Brayden Mitchell and Matias Diaz move into the front row reserve positions with Trent Renata coming onto the replacements bench as well.
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahroni Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Webber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.
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