The Chiefs will provide a glimpse of their future on Friday night, with Damian McKenzie set to start in the No 10 jersey.

The Super Rugby leaders have made a raft of changes for the trip to Melbourne to face the lowly Rebels, chief among them being a change at the pivot position.

Co-captain Aaron Cruden has been named among the reserves at AAMI Park, earning a break after opening the season strongly while helping the Chiefs to three wins from three.

And, in Cruden's absence, McKenzie will switch from his regular fullback position, offering an early showing of what is likely to become a permanent shift next season.


The 21-year-old has in the past featured at first five for the Chiefs but appears set to make the position his own when Cruden moves to French rugby. McKenzie will on Friday link with another France-bound player in Tawera Kerr-Barlow, the halfback one constant in a much-changed backline.

Stephen Donald has been handed a start at second five after coming off the bench and playing 75 minutes in last weekend's win over the Hurricanes, forming a midfield partnership with Anton Lienert-Brown.

Toni Pulu has retained the No 14 jersey but left wing will see 21-year-old Northland outside back Solomon Alaimalo make his Super Rugby debut, while fellow youngster Shaun Stevenson will enjoy his first start of the season at fullback.

In the forwards, Bay of Plenty hooker Sabastian Siataga earns his first start of his Super Rugby career after impressing in his debut off the bench last weekend. Siataga will pack down alongside Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala, who will make their fourth straight starts in the front row.

The second row combination of Dominic Bird and Brodie Retallick remains similarly unchanged, while openside Sam Cane will be partnered by Tom Sanders on the blindside. And, with Michael Leitch serving a one-week suspension for his high tackle against the Hurricanes, veteran Liam Messam take his place on the back of the scrum.

Chiefs team to play the Rebels on Friday night:

1. Kane Hames
2. Sabastian Siataga
3. Nepo Laulala
4. Dominic Bird
5. Brodie Retallick
6. Tom Sanders
7. Sam Cane (c)
8. Liam Messam
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
10. Damian McKenzie
11. Solomon Alaimalo
12. Stephen Donald
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
14. Toni Pulu
15. Shaun Stevenson

Reserves: Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Atu Moli, Mitchell Brown, Mitchell Karpik, Finlay Christie, Aaron Cruden, Johnny Faauli