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All Blacks flood back in for Highlanders

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/07/2016
<span style="font-family:'Segoe UI Light', 'Segoe UI', Tahoma, 'Microsoft Sans Serif', Verdana, sans-serif;line-height:normal;">Sunday's game (NZT) will be the Highlanders' second visit to Durban this season.</span> © Rob Jefferies/Getty Images Sunday's game (NZT) will be the Highlanders' second visit to Durban this season.

The Highlanders have restored their All Blacks en masse in a vastly-changed team to face the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

Six All Blacks are in their starting XV for Saturday's match, including five who were rested from last week's 48-18 win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

Coach Jamie Joseph has made nine starting changes in total, with injuries forcing the early return home of loose forwards Liam Squire and Shane Christie, prop Daniel Lienert-Brown and first five-eighth Marty Banks.

Playmaker Lima Sopoaga was the only All Black to start against the Kings and is one of just two backs to retain their place this week against the 14th-placed Jaguares.

Captain Ben Smith returns at fullback while winger Waisake Naholo, centre Malakai Fekitoa and halfback Aaron Smith are all back after avoiding the journey to South Africa.

One-Test flanker Elliot Dixon is also restored while Joseph has mad three changes to a forward pack he expects to be fully-tested by the Pumas-laden hosts.

"The Jaguares forwards were very good against the Bulls in wet conditions last week (won 29-11) so we are anticipating a big game up front," Joseph said.

James Lentjes makes his first start of the season at openside flanker while lock Joe Wheeler and prop Siosuia Halanukonuka are also called in.

Fijian international Patrick Osborne will play his 50th Super rugby game after winning promotion from the reserves bench to start on the left wing.

The defending champion Highlanders are fourth in the New Zealand conference and clinging to the last wildcard sport in the Australasian group.

Highlanders: Ben Smith (capt), Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, James Lentjes, Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin, Mark Reddish, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Ash Dixon, Josh Hohneck. Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Ross Geldenhuys, Mark Reddish, Dan Pryor, Te Aihe Toma, Fletcher Smith, Matt Faddes.

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