The Highlanders’ injury crisis hit a new low when they named forwards coach Kees Meeuws on the bench for their trial game against the Blues on Friday.
The loss of tighthead props Chris King (groin) and Ma’afu Fia (hamstring) after the pre-season defeat to the Chiefs last weekend will see former All Blacks front rower Meeuws come out of retirement to assist the Highlanders in Auckland. Meeuws is currently the assistant coach of the Otago-based franchise.
Wellington prop Jacob Ellison has also been included on the bench to cover captain Jamie Mackintosh, who plays his first match since surgery. After arriving from the Chiefs last week, new recruit Phil Burleigh will partner Ben Smith in midfield.
Highlanders - 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Cullum Retallick, 19 Doug Tietjens, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Buxton Popoali’i, 23 Hoani MacDonald, 24 Cardiff Vaega, 25 Kees Meeuws.