Cowan starts in crunch game

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has opted for the experience of Jimmy Cowan ahead of Aaron Smith for their showdown with the Reds in Brisbane.

Smith has been one of the form scrumhalves of the tournament and established himself as the starting No 9 for the All Blacks. Cowan is one of four changes to the run-on team that played and lost against the Chiefs last Friday. In the pack, Andrew Hore and James Haskell come into the side. In the backs, Mike Delany starts at flyhalf with Siale Piutau in midfield in place of the injured Tamati Ellison.

Both sides are outside of the play-off places and have to win to stay in contention.

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 James Haskell, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Nick Crosswell, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Subs: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Chris King, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Kenny Lynn.