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A tough season looks set to continue for the Chiefs when they take on the Highlanders in Dunedin this evening. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match from 5:30pm AEST.
Both the Highlanders and Chiefs have lost more matches than what they have won so far this season, and both sides need a win to keep faint hopes of a playoff birth alive.
The Chiefs in particular have had a difficult season and remain rooted at the bottom of the New Zealand conference. The injury to Damien McKenzie also doesn’t help their cause in the slightest.
The Highlanders meanwhile are a competitive unit but remain a class below the Crusaders and Hurricanes. At home against the Chiefs though, they should be favoured to get the job done.
In team news, the return of star fullback Ben Smith is the only change to the Highlanders starting line-up to play the Chiefs.
Smith, who was rested for the big win over the Sunwolves, takes the place of Patelesio Tomkinson, with Matt Faddes shifting from fullback to the right wing.
Josh McKay comes onto the bench for back-up five-eighth Bryn Gatland, who suffered a season-ending foot injury in Tokyo.
Also unavailable due to injury are Liam Squire (knee), Waisake Naholo (knee), Marty Banks (foot), Tevita Nabura (knee) and Richard Buckman (Achilles).
The Highlanders beat the Chiefs 30-27 in their previous clash in February.
Meanwhile, Chiefs coach Colin Cooper has made three starting changes to his underperforming side.
Halfback Brad Weber returns for Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, tighthead prop Nepo Laulala is in for Angus Ta’avao and winger Sean Wainui replaces Ataata Moeakiola.
The Chiefs were thrashed 47-19 by the Hurricanes last weekend.
Another high scoring and entertaining New Zealand derby awaits but the Highlanders cannot afford to be dropping these matches despite dealing with an injury list of their own. The Highlanders to win in a points fest.
Highlanders by 14
Time: 5:30pm AEST
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Betting: Highlanders $1.22, Chiefs $4.35
Ben Smith (co-c), Matt Faddes, Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Li, Josh Ioane, Aaron Smith, Elliot Dixon, James Lentjes, Luke Whitelock (co-c), Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown
Reserves: Ash Dixon, Ayden Johnstone, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Shannon Frizell, Kayne Hammington, Josh McKay, Patelesio Tomkinson
Solomon Alaimalo, Sean Wainui, Tumua Manu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Marty McKenzie, Brad Weber, Tyler Ardron, Lachlan Boshier, Luke Jacobson, Mitchell Brown, Michael Allardice (c), Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Atu Moli
Reserves: Liam Polwart, Ryan Coxon, Angus Ta’avao, Jesse Parete, Taleni Seu, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Shaun Stevenson, Bailyn Sullivan