Josh Ioane has been given the nod.
With questions surrounding who would replace Lima Sopoaga in the Highlanders No10 jersey this season, Ioane will get the first opportunity to make it his when the side travel to Hamilton to meet the Chiefs on Friday.
With Bryn Gatland and Marty Banks both joining the team this season, there was no standout contender to step into Sopoaga's shoes, but the 23-year-old Ioane will get the opportunity to do so.
Ioane featured sporadically throughout the Highlanders' 2018 campaign at fullback and first five-eighth, and has spent the preseason getting familiar with the starting role.
The side will also be running a new-look midfield to open the season, with Thomas Umaga-Jensen partnering Rob Thompson.
All Blacks Aaron Smith, Dillon Hunt and Shannon Frizell have been named on the bench.
"Clearly we are excited about the season getting underway, we have been counting down to this moment and we are looking forward to the opportunity of putting all the preseason hard work into an eighty-minute performance on Friday night against the Chiefs," Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said.
Highlanders: Ayden Johnstone, Liam Coltman, Tyrel Lomax, Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Jackson Hemopo, James Lentjes, Luke Whitelock (cc), Kayne Hammington, Josh Ioane, Tevita Li, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Rob Thompson, Matt Faddes, Ben Smith (cc). Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, Aaron Smith, Bryn Gatland, Patelesio Tomkinson.