Fresh off the bye and a first-round win against the Chiefs, head coach Aaron Mauger, has resisted making too many changes to the Highlanders team to play the Blues this weekend at 09:05 SA time at Eden Park.
Mauger made only one change to the starting lineup with Scott Gregory coming in at fullback to replace Vilimoni Koroi. It will be just Gregory’s second game for the Highlander.
In the only other change, Ngane Punivai returns from injury to take a spot on the bench. Bryn Gatland has been retained in the squad as Josh Ioane has still not recovered from the groin injury that saw him pull-out from the last match.
“They’re an 80-minute team,” forward coach Mark Hammett said of the ever-improving Blues. “We’re seeing that they are strong finishers to go with all their other strengths.
“They’ve obviously got firepower around the park and their pack is going well. We saw improvement through last year and pre-COVID they were travelling pretty well on the road, which is often a good sign of culture.”
Highlanders: 15. Scott Gregory, 14. Sam Gilbert, 13. Rob Thompson, 12. Sio Tomkinson, 11. Jona Nareki, 10. Mitch Hunt, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7. Dillon Hunt, 6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Josh Dickson, 4. Pari Pari Parkinson, 3. Siate Tokolahi, 2. Ash Dixon (c), 1. Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Jeff Thwaites, 19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23. Ngane Punivai