ABs back for Highlanders
The Highlanders will welcome back their two All Blacks - Ben and Aaron Smith - for their final preseason game against the Waratahs on Friday night.
Both players have been back training with the Highlanders for a couple of weeks, but have been eased back in after last year's end-of-season tour.
Ben Smith will lead the team in the absence of his co-captain Nasi Manu, who is still a week away from returning to the fray after suffering a pectoral injury in a training mishap.
Tasman skipper Shane Christie makes his first appearance for his new franchise after recovering from injury, while TJ Ioane (shoulder), Elliot Dixon (hamstring) and Liam Coltman (rib) were unavailable for Friday's game.
The Highlanders take on the Waratahs from 9.30pm at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle and open their campaign at home against the Blues on February 22.
HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith (captain), Patrick Osborne, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Kurt Baker, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Shane Christie, John Hardie, Gareth Evans, Josh Bekhuis, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Ged Robinson, Kane Hames. Reserves; Brayden Mitchell, Matias Diaz, Craig Millar, Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin, TJ Ioane, Lee Allan, Frae Wilson, Hayden Parker, Phil Burleigh, Winston Stanley, Richard Buckman.
- The Southland Times