Chris Smylie has beaten All Black Jimmy Cowan to the Highlanders No 9 jersey for Friday’s Vodacom Super 14 match against the Blues in Dunedin.
Smylie, the NPC first division player of the year after a standout season with Otago last year, made a noticeable difference to the Highlanders when he came on for Cowan during the opening round loss to the Crusaders.
The backline is otherwise unchanged with Smylie linking with classy first flyhalf Nick Evans to try to ignite a bit more action.
The pack sees talented prop Clarke Dermody unavailable with injury and replaced by Nick White. Cooper has stuck with Southland lock Hoani MacDonald on the blindside and kept his captain Craig Newby at the back of the scrum – two late changes that worked reasonably well against the Crusaders.
Major offseason signing Andrew Blowers is still unavailable after missing the first round with a head knock.
Highlanders team to play Blues:
15 Ben Blair, 14 Vilimoni Delasau, 13 Neil Brew, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Roy Kinikinilau, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Craig Newby, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Hoani MacDonald, 5 James Ryan, 4. Tom Donnelly, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Nick White.
Subs: 16 Jason Macdonald, 17 Chris King, 18 Filipo Levi, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Callum Bruce, 22 Richard Kahui.