Sky Live: Highlanders v Chiefs
Last Updated: 20/06/15 10:11pm
Highlanders and Chiefs have both named strong sides for their Super Rugby play-off in Dunedin.
The two sides have met twice already this year, with the Highlanders claiming an away win in March thanks to a 77th-minute penalty from replacement Marty Banks.
In the return leg at Invercargill last month the Highlanders ran away with a bonus-point win thanks to tries from Patrick Osborne, Waisake Naholo, Richard Buckman and Ben Smith - all of whom start in the backline this week.
The Highlanders side will be captained by the influential Nasi Manu, who joins Elliot Dixon and the hard-working Dan Pryor in the loose trio.
Pryor will have his hands full at the breakdown, as Sam Cane - one of the young stars who could end up replacing Richie McCaw in the All Blacks No 7 jersey - lines up opposite him at the side of the scrum.
Cane is one of a number of All Blacks in the Chiefs pack, with Liam Messam leading the side from the base of the scrum. Hika Elliot, who this week signed up for two more years of Super Rugby, starts at hooker and last year’s World Rugby Player of the Year Brodie Retallick slots into the second row.
Despite two strong sets of forwards, it's the respective backlines that will likely define the outcome of this play-off. The Chiefs have opted for the relatively surprising selection of Andrew Horrell in the No 10 jersey, and he will line up against a seasoned half-back in Lima Sopoaga. Sopoaga’s half-back partner will be Aaron Smith, who has enjoyed a dominant season in the No 9 jersey.
In the midfield Buckman pairs up with Malakai Fekitoa for the Highlanders, and the two of them will be tasked with marking Sonny Bill Williams and the quick feet of former 7s star Tim Nanai-Williams.
Out wide the Highlanders arguably edge their counterparts, with Ben Smith playing behind wingers Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith , 1 Brendon Edmonds, 2 Liam Coltman, 3 Josh Hohneck, 4 Alex Ainley, 5 Mark Reddish, 6 Elliot Dixon, 7 Dan Pryor, 8 Nasi Manu (c).
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Shaun Treeby.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Andrew Horrell, 9 Brad Weber, 1 Pauliasi Manu, 2 Hika Elliot, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 4 Matt Symons, 5 Brodie Retallick, 6 Michael Fitzgerald, 7 Sam Cane, 8 Liam Messam (c).
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Mitchell Crosswell, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Kane Hammington, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.