Hurricanes' Perenara will face Cowan at halfback
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has given Jimmy Cowan the nod at halfback for the round four clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington this weekend.
Cowan's selection is an interesting choice after Aaron Smith excelled in back-to-back starts for the unbeaten Highlanders over the last fortnight.
The selection will also mean that Cowan will be marking young Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara who has shown impressive form this season.
The Canes have won two out of three on their tour to South Africa and Western Australia and return home with a spring in their step.
Coach Mark Hammett has stuck with the side who trounced the Force last weekend, and look to be gaining momentum.
Cowan's selection at halfback, with Smith dropping to the bench, is one of three personnel changes made to the 3-0 Highlanders.
Jamie Joseph has laid the challenge fairly and squarely at the feet of veteran All Black halfback Jimmy Cowan.
The response of the 29-year-old tomorrow night at the Cake Tin should go a long way to deciding how the Highlanders halfback scenario is going to play out for the rest of this Super Rugby season.
Most in the Highlanders region had presumed Smith had surpassed Cowan in the pecking order, with the 51-test halfback looking increasingly uncomfortable with his role off the bench.
But Joseph this week has given the gritty Southlander the chance to prove he still has what it takes at this level as the Highlanders take on the rising Hurricanes in what could be a cracking encounter.
The bristling Cowan will recognise this as a chance to stake his claim and his trademark physical style could be an indicator of the way Joseph wants his team to play it against the largely inexperienced Canes outfit.
The other two are both injury-enforced; with Colin Slade moving to his preferred No 10 position to replace the injured Lima Sopaga (shoulder) and Ben Smith returning to fullback after a week out with concussion.
Young Manawatu prop Ma'afu Fia gets his first run of the season at tighthead, replacing Chris King who's out with a groin injury.
Jarrad Hoeata (shoulder), Siale Piutau (ankle), Kenny Lynn (neck) and Shaun Treeby (knee) all remain unavailable as they work their way back from long-term injuries.
1. Ben May,2. Dane Coles,3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen,4. Jeremy Thrush,5. Jason Eaton,6. Faifili Levave,7. Jack Lam,8. Victor Vito,9. TJ Perenara,10. Beauden Barrett,11. Julian Savea,12. Tim Bateman,13. Conrad Smith (c),14. Cory Jane,15. Andre Taylor
16. Motu Matu'u,17. Michael Bent,18. James Broadhurst,19. Brad Shields,20. Chris Eaton,21. Daniel Kirkpatrick,22. Charlie Ngatai
HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Tamati Ellison, Phil Bureligh, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan; Nasi Manu, John Hardie, Adam Thomson, Nick Crosswell, Josh Bekhuis, Ma'afu Fia, Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh (c). Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray, Cullum Retallick, James Haskell, Aaron Smith, Buxton Popali'i.
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