Highlanders drop All Blacks duo Smith, Slade
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has finally lost patience with his All Blacks halves combination, banishing Colin Slade and Aaron Smith to the bench for tomorrow night's Super Rugby match against the Brumbies in Dunedin.
First five-eighths Slade and halfback Smith have failed to fire in the opening six matches this season, and feature among six changes Joseph has made from the team that lost 29-18 to the Blues in Auckland last Friday night. Only one of the changes has been forced by injury.
The Otago pairing of Hayden Parker and Fumiaki Tanaka replace Slade and Smith, respectively, as the winless Highlanders look to ignite their attack. For both players, it is a first start at Super Rugby level.
Elsewhere in the backs, Phil Burleigh starts at centre in place of Jason Emery and Kade Poki returns from injury and will start on the right wing in place of Buxton Popoali'i, who was concussed last week against the Blues and not considered for selection.
In the forwards, Ma'afu Fia comes back into the front row at tighthead prop, with centurion Chris King relegated to the reserves.
Jarrad Hoeata moves back into the engine room joining Brad Thorn at lock, with TJ Ioane getting a start in the run-on team for the first time, at No 6, and Josh Bekhuis dropping to the bench.
Prop Tony Woodcock continues to be sidelined by a hamstring injury.
The Brumbies are joint-competition leaders with the Chiefs, having won five and drawn one of their seven matches, while the 0-6 Highlanders continue to prop up the table with just six competition points in what has been a woeful campaign, particularly given the pre-season hype around their recruitment.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Phil Burleigh, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Hayden Parker, Fumiaki Tanaka, Mose Tuiali'i, John Hardie, TJ Ioane, Jarrad Hoeata, Brad Thorn, Ma'afu Fia, Andrew Hore (captain), Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Chris King, Josh Bekhuis, Elliot Dixon, Aaron Smith, Colin Slade, Jason Emery.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Andrew Smith, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), George Smith, Jordan Smiler, Sam Carter, Peter Kimlin, Dan Palmer, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander. Reserves: Siliva Siliva, Scott Sio, Fotu Auelua, Colby Faingaa, Ian Prior, Pat McCabe, Tevita Kuridrani.
Which 2015 NZ Super Rugby team looks best?