Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan has named a strong twenty-three to face their southern rivals for the 7.05pm clash.
Loosehead prop Aidan Ross, hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho and tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao will pack down a powerful front row. All Blacks lock Tupou Vaa’i returns to start alongside Naitoa Ah Kuoi to complete the tight five.
Taranaki loose forward Mitchell Brown has been named to start at six in his 50th Gallagher Chiefs game. Brown made his debut for the Gallagher Chiefs in 2016 against Wales at FMG Stadium Waikato after being called in as a replacement player for the season. In 2017 Brown was named in the Gallagher Chiefs squad for the first time.
With Gallagher Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane side-lined with injury, McMillan has given the nod to rookie Kaylum Boshier to start in the number seven jersey. Boshier will be joined by Waikato’s Luke Jacobson who will once again start at number eight.
Gallagher Chiefs co-captain Brad Weber will again combine with Kaleb Trask in the halves. Quinn Tupaea and Anton Lienert-Brown will light up the midfield, while electrifying wingers Etene Nanai-Seturo and Jonah Lowe return from injury to start respectively on the left and right wings. Fullback Damian McKenzie will complete the starting fifteen.
In the reserves, only one change has been made following the Gallagher Chiefs win over the Blues. Experienced utility back Shaun Stevenson joins the twenty-three after Chase Tiatia was ruled out due to illness.
McMillan said the team were refreshed after the bye week, but eager to return with competitive form.
“The Highlanders have proven on any given day that any team is beatable and will be riding on a high coming into this weekend’s game. It will be a challenge for us, but we are a different team now to what we were when we hosted them back in round two.”
McMillan finished by congratulating Brown on his upcoming milestone.
“To clock up 50 games for your club is a great achievement. Mitch has established himself as a talented player with an impressive skillset and offers great versatility.”
1: Aidan Ross (39)
2: Samisoni Taukei’aho (40)
3: Angus Ta’avao (39)
4: Tupou Vaa’i (10)
5: Naitoa Ah Kuoi (16)
6: Mitchell Brown (49)
7: Kaylum Boshier (1)
8: Luke Jacobson (29)
9: Brad Weber (89) (c)
10: Kaleb Trask (11)
11: Etene Nanai-Seturo (17)
12: Quinn Tupaea (15)
13: Anton Lienert-Brown (85)
14: Jonah Lowe (2)
15: Damian McKenzie (87)
16: Bradley Slater (19)
17: Ollie Norris (7)
18: Joe Apikotoa (2)
19: Samipeni Finau (3)
20: Pita Gus Sowakula (29)
21: Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (41)
22: Alex Nankivell (34)
23: Shaun Stevenson (55)
() = Gallagher Chiefs caps in brackets
*denotes Gallagher Chiefs debut
**denotes Sky Super Rugby debut