Te Puna and Bay of Plenty halfback Te Aihe Toma will start for the Highlanders in an official Super Rugby match for the first time against the Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Sunday (5.20am NZ time).

The 23-year-old will wear the number 9 jersey usually the possession of All Black Aaron Smith who is being rested after the series against Wales.

Back-up Fumiaki Tanaka is also unavailable after injuring his shoulder playing for Japan against Scotland. Jamie Booth will be on the bench as cover for Toma.

Toma will combine in the halves with Marty Banks who will have the responsibility of driving the team around the field. The two spent time on the field together in Toma's debut for the Highlanders in the unofficial match against the Crusaders last week in Oamaru.


All Black first-five Lima Sopoaga will provide excellent backup from the bench.

Mark Reddish will play his 50th Super Rugby game on Sunday morning. The former Hurricanes player will start at lock against the Kings and will be playing his 19th match for the Highlanders.

Mobile loose forward Gareth Evans will start at blindside flanker and he will be accompanied in the loose by captain Shane Christie and Luke Whitelock. Liam Squire who debuted successfully for the All Blacks in Dunedin last week is on the bench, as coach Joseph stays with the forward group that played well against the Crusaders during the June break.

Ryan Tongia gets his second start of the 2016 season at left wing while Jack Wilson and Matt Faddes complete the back three. Patrick Osborne who has just returned from duties with Fiji will make his impact from the reserves. Peter White