The apprentice will meet the master in the capital on Saturday night.

Ben Smith returns from concussion to wear the Highlanders' No 15 jersey, while 2016 All Blacks apprentice Jordie Barrett wins his second start at the back for the Hurricanes after the foot injury suffered by Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Barrett's inclusion is one of three changes for the Hurricanes, seeking redress after their 10-match winning streak was emphatically ended by the aggressive Chiefs in Hamilton.

Barrett junior added spark from the bench to a slightly disjointed Hurricanes' attack.


Loosehead prop Loni Uhila has a calf problem, so is replaced by Chris Eves, while the versatile Ardie Savea moves into No 8 in place of Reed Prinsep, with Callum Gibbins moving into the openside position.

This will give the Hurricanes a clear edge in the loose, as the Highlanders are undermanned. No less than 15 players are unavailable through injury, so they are handing former New Zealand Under 20s rep Dillon Hunt his first start in the No 7 jersey.

Ben Smith, though, will be welcomed back with open arms after his head knock forced him to miss two and a half games. The Highlanders have also lost Lima Sopoaga and Waisake Naholo to medium-term injuries.

The All Blacks incumbent will be one of three Smiths in the backline, with Otago and former NZ Under 20 player Fletcher Smith picked ahead of Marty Banks to run the cutter, and Aaron Smith running out for his 98th game.

"Fletcher has trained well and shown some good form pre-season. He's a young player with a lot of potential and we back him to do the job for the team on Saturday," says Highlanders coach Tony Brown.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd cannot see the Highlanders departing from their usual game plan, which involves plenty of kicking, and which was very effective against the Blues on a wet Eden Park.

"Fletcher Smith is a very good footballer, very capable off his left and right foot. I don't think they'll change much. He'll come in and do what Lima has been doing, so it will be business as usual. The Highlanders kick the ball more than any other team in the competition. Fletcher's skillset is not that different to Lima's," says Boyd.

On that basis, expect a searching examination for Barrett, Vince Aso and Julian Savea, either in defusing bombs or covering wipers or box kicks. Barrett's height (six feet five) will help in that regard.


Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Callum Gibbins, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Mark Abbott, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles (c), Chris Eves

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May, Mike Kainga, Sam Lousi, Reed Prinsep, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Wes Goosen

Highlanders: Ben Smith (c), Richard Buckman, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Tevita Li, Fletcher Smith, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Dillon Hunt, Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Joe Wheeler, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown

Reserves: Seko Pole, Aki Seiuli, Guy Millar, Jackson Hemopo, Gareth Evans, Kayne Hammington, Marty Banks, Matt Faddes