Nonu bolsters Highlanders

RICHARD FERGUSON updates followers of the latest Super Rugby news from New Zealand.

Nonu bolsters Highlanders

Ma’a Nonu returns from injury to start against the Chiefs this weekend, adding experience to a backline that has struggled to impress so far this season. Chris King will be the experience required in the front row, playing in his 100th Super Rugby game.

Inside King, Liam Coltman will be making his debut. Which better player to start alongside than a centurion? There is also a change in the second row with Josh Bekhuis returning and forcing Jarrad Hoeata to shift back to the loose trio.

Nonu replaces Phil Burleigh, who will be making his impact off the bench later in the match. Jason Rutledge is also on the bench, providing cover for debutant Coltman, after the injuries to Andrew Hore and Brayden Mitchell.

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Jason Emery, Ma’a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Aaron Smith; Elliot Dixon, John Hardie, Jarrad Hoeata, Josh Bekhuis, Brad Thorn (captain), Chris King, Liam Coltman, Tony Woodcock. Substitutes: Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray, Joe Wheeler, Tim Boys, Frae Wilson, Lima Sopoaga, Phil Burleigh

Four changes for Crusaders

Coach Todd Blackadder has tinkered with his team that beat the Bulls so convincingly last weekend, making a few changes. In the backline, Willi Heinz gets a chance to prove his worth starting ahead of Andy Ellis.

Luke Romano is back from injury, dropping Dominic Bird to the bench. Codie Taylor gets his shot at a debut performance from the bench while Zac Guildford completes his return to Super Rugby, replacing Adam Whitelock as outside back reserve.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Zac Guildford.