Aaron Smith to start for Highlanders in Super Rugby opener

The Highlanders have rushed Aaron Smith into the starting side for their Super Rugby opener against the Sharks in Dunedin, despite All Blacks rest orders.

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

At present, the All Blacks aren't to play any more than 180 minutes from their first three matches of the new Super Rugby season, meaning Smith will be substituted at halftime at the earliest in Friday's fixture. Kayne Hammington has been named as the reserve halfback to finish the match in Smith's place.

Elsewhere, coach Aaron Mauger has named an interesting selection in midfield, with one-Test All Black Josh Ioane to start at 12, away from his preferred position of first-five. 

Former Crusader Mitch Hunt has been given the nod to start in the number 10 jersey. 

James Lentjes will captain the side, in the number seven jersey, while Dillon Hunt has been named at on the blindside of the scrum, giving the Highlanders two openside flankers at the same time. All Black Shannon Frizell will start from the bench.

Former All Blacks sevens star Jona Nareki will make his Super Rugby debut on the left wing, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Jona Nareki, Michael Collins, Tima Fainga'anuku and Jesse Parete also making their first appearances.

The Highlanders face the Sharks in Dunedin on Friday.

Highlanders: 15. Josh McKay, 14. Tima Fainga'anuku, 13. Rob Thompson, 12. Josh Ioane, 11. Jona Nareki, 10. Mitch Hunt, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 7. James Lentjes (c), 6. Dillon Hunt, 5. Josh Dickson, 4. Pari Pari Parkinson, 3. Siate Tokolahi, 2. Liam Coltman, 1. Ayden Johnstone.

Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19. Jesse Parete, 20. Shannon Frizell, 21. Kayne Hammington, 22. Michael Collins, 23. Teariki Ben-Nicholas