New-look Highlanders should be mobile

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Former Crusaders five-eighths Mitch Hunt will start while Jona Nareki will play on the left wing and Tima Fainga'nuku on the right while coming off the bench will be former Blues fullback Michael Collins, utility back Teariki Ben-Nicholas and No.8 Jesse Parete.


Mauger opted to start with Hunt at first five-eighths and All Black Josh Ioane (pictured) outside him, a decision made a little easier when Teihorangi Walden was not considered due to a rib injury.


"I feel this team to start us gives us the right mix and we're looking forward to seeing how they go.


"Those guys [Hunt and Ioane] have trained really well in those positions through the pre-season.


"Mitch has controlled our game really well during the time he has had on the field in the pre-season. I think Josh is going to assist Mitch and I think they will work well together this week," he said.


Backing the pair will be centre Rob Thompson who will be making his 50th appearance for the side.


Thompson has added three kilogrammes to his playing weight over the off-season in order to aid his game in the tackle and in the carry. He has managed to do that without affecting his speed.


He had felt good during the warm-up game against the Crusaders and was keen to put himself to the test during what is expected to be a fast game against the Sharks.


Just to add to the mobility the side will enjoy, the Highlanders will also play both open side flankers James Lentjes and Dillon Hunt on the sides of their scrum.


Mauger's reason for that was, "It will give us the ability to go at the ball and give us the ability to cover a bit of grass as well and they've both got big engines."


The Highlanders side is: 1.Ayden Johnstone, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Siate Tokolahi, 4.Pari Pari Parkinson, 5.Josh Dickson, 6.Dillon Hunt, 7.James Lentjes, 8.Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 9.Aaron Smith. 10.Mitch Hunt, 11.Jona Nareki, 12.Josh Ioane, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Tima Faiga'anuku, 15.Josh McKay.


Substitutes: 16.Ash Dixon, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19.Jesse Parete, 20.Shannon Frizell, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Michael Collins, 23.Teariki Ben-Nicholas.


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