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Aaron Smith to face Blues as Highlanders out to break run of five losses

The Highlanders have been bolstered by the return of All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, named on the bench for this weekend's clash with the Blues in Dunedin.

Smith, 30, has had a month on the sidelines for the Highlanders after injuring his ankle in his side's clash with the Blues in Auckland earlier this season.

The halfback had initially been ruled out for six weeks, but Smith has forced his way back into coach Aaron Mauger's plans after a dismal run of results that see the Highlanders at the bottom of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference.

Kayne Hammington will start at halfback, with Smith likely to return as a substitute.

Elsewhere, co-captain Luke Whitelock has also been named on the bench, having sat out of last week's loss to the Crusaders.

All Black Jackson Hemopo returns to the starting side, named at lock with Shannon Frizell keeping hold of the number six jersey for another week.

Centre Rob Thompson will miss Saturday's match for family reasons, replaced by Sio Tomkinson.

The Highlanders host the Blues in Dunedin on Saturday night, having lost all of their last five matches.

Highlanders: 15. Ben Smith (cc), 14. Matt Faddes, 13. Sio Tomkinson, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 11. Tevita Li, 10. Josh Ioane, 9. Kayne Hammington, 8. Elliot Dixon, 7. James Lentjes, 6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Tom Franklin, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 2. Liam Coltman, 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Replacements: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Ayden Johnstone, 18. Siate Tokolahi, 19. Josh Dickson, 20. Luke Whitelock (cc), 21. Aaron Smith, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23. Thomas Umaga-Jensen.

Aaron Smith of the Highlanders during the 2018 Super Rugby game between the Bulls and the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria on 28 April 2018 
Photo by : ©Christiaan Kotze/Backpagepix
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders during the 2018 Super Rugby game between the Bulls and the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. Source: Photosport


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