Highlanders head coach Tony Brown has named his team's side to face the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday, with All Blacks vice-captain Ben Smith and Liam Squire returning from injury for the match.

Smith, who will return as captain on Saturday night, was ruled out of his side's home win over the Rebels last Friday after tweaking his hamstring, while Squire will make his first appearance for the Dunedin-based franchise after injuring his knee against the Crusaders in round two of Super Rugby.

"It's good to welcome Ben and Liam back because as we all know the NZ derby matches are incredibly intense games," Brown said.

"You have to be at your very best to come away with the win. Being at home this time in front of our fans, on a dry track, will hopefully help us put on a big performance."


Three test flanker Elliot Dixon also returns to the starting XV at blindside flanker, after having come off the bench in last week's defeat of the Rebels.

Coach Brown has also shaken up his side's tight five, with Alex Ainley replacing Joe Wheeler at lock, while both props have been changed as Aki Seiuli and Siate Tokolahi have been demoted to the bench to make way for Daniel Lienert-Brown and Siua Halanukonuka.

The Highlanders will be looking to make it two victories from two matches this year against the Blues, after defeating the Auckland-based club 16-12 at Eden Park four weeks ago.

The importance of this match is not just restricted to the New Zealand conference standings - with both teams looking to avoid sitting in bottom place at the conclusion of Saturday evening's meeting - as the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy is also on the line.

The former All Blacks assistant coach, who passed away in 2002 was head coach of the Highlanders during Super Rugby's inaugural season in 1996, before going on to coach the Blues in 2000.

An away win over their rivals would see the Blues retain the trophy for the first time in five years, with the Highlanders having held the trophy since their 27-20 win in Auckland back in 2012.

Highlanders team to play the Blues:

1 - Daniel Lienert-Brown
2 - Liam Coltman
3 - Siosuia Halanukonuka
4 - Alex Ainley
5 - Tom Franklin
6 - Elliot Dixon
7 - Dillon Hunt
8 - Luke Whitelock
9 - Aaron Smith
10 - Marty Banks
11 - Patrick Osborne
12 - Richard Buckman
13 - Malakai Fekitoa
14 - Tevita Li
15 - Ben Smith (c)


16 - Greg Pleasants-Tate
17 - Aki Seiuli
18 - Siate Tokolahi
19 - Joe Wheeler
20 - Liam Squire
21 - Kayne Hammington
22 - Fletcher Smith
23 - Matt Faddes