New Highlanders team named to face Chiefs

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 20:46 27/02/2014

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Super Rugby returns to action with a tight finish in store for Kiwi conference Highlanders name three new backs for South African trip Blues shake off cobwebs with big win over Northland Barbarians Kiwis winger Curtis Rona poised to switch codes to Western Force Hurricanes emerge unscathed from wet night in Melbourne Tim Nanai-Williams eyes Super Rugby return with either the Chiefs or Blues Michael Allardice to miss rest of Super Rugby season with knee injury for second year in a row Highlanders put Crusaders to sword in Oamaru friendly Hurricanes create a genuine Super Rugby old boys' network Blues loose forward Tanerau Latimer signs deal with Bayonne

Southland flanker John Hardie returns to the Highlanders forward pack for Saturday night’s game against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Hardie, who missed the win over the Blues last weekend, replaces Shane Christie on the openside flank, while Joe Wheeler returns from a broken finger to replace Brad Thorn at lock, with Thorn ruled out for a month due to a rib injury.

Patrick Osborne’s ankle injury has forced a reshuffle, with Malakai Fekitoa moving from centre to the left wing and Winston Stanley preparing to make his Highlanders debut in the midfield after playing for the Western Force for the past two years.

Brayden Mitchell and Matias Diaz, who has now received a transfer from the Argentinian rugby union, come onto the bench, along with Trent Renata.

HIGHLANDERS: Ben Smith (co-captain), Richard Buckman, Winston Stanley, Shaun Treeby, Malakai Fekitoa, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu (co-captain), John Hardie, Gareth Evans, Joe Wheeler, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris King, Liam Coltman, Kane Hames. Reserves; Brayden Mitchell, Matias Diaz, Craig Millar, Josh Bekhuis, Shane Christie, Fumiaki Tanaka, Trent Renata, Phil Burleigh.

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