Slade back but no Nonu for Highlanders
Colin Slade has been handed a starting jersey for the Highlanders but there is no sign of Ma’a Nonu as they look for their first win.
Slade takes over from Lima Sopoaga at first-five for the match against the Hurricanes in Dunedin tomorrow night.
Sopoaga had a shocker as the Highlanders rolled over against the Cheetahs last Saturday. That loss came on top of their opening round defeat to the Chiefs and has put plenty of pressure on the highly-touted southerners.
Slade, the injury-prone All Black, should provide better direction.
But he won’t have Nonu at his shoulder. Nonu, one of the Highlanders’ big buys in the offseason, remains troubled by a knee problem that saw him withdrawn from the Cheetahs match.
Phil Burleigh will be at second-five with promising youngster Jason Emery making his debut at centre.
It promises to be a tough introduction against the classy Canes skipper Conrad Smith.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has made five changes in all.
In the forwards, prop Chris King plays his 99th game of Super Rugby, lock Jarrad Hoeata returns to the second row and Elliot Dixon takes over at No 8.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Jason Emery, Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon, John Hardie, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Brad Thorn, Chris King, Andrew Hore (c), Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Ma’afu Fia, Jake Paringatai, TJ Ioane, Fumiaki Tanaka, Lima Sopoaga, Buxton Popoalii.