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Co-captain Ben Smith back for Highlanders

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/04/2016

Ben Smith of the Highlanders © Rob Jefferies/Getty Images Ben Smith of the Highlanders Co-skipper Ben Smith returns to a Highlanders side coming off a Super Rugby bye to face the Sharks in Dunedin.

Smith missed the 28-27 defeat to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane as he recovered from concussion.

The All Blacks fullback's inclusion is one of six personnel changes to the Highlanders' starting 15 for the match on Friday night.

In a reshuffled back three, the player to drop out is wing Patrick Osborne, who goes to the bench.

Jason Emery comes in at second five-eighth for Rob Thomson, while there are four changes in the pack, including the return of Elliot Dixon after a head cut in place of Luke Whitelock.

Tom Franklin replaces Mark Reddish at lock, Josh Hohneck comes in for Siosiua Halanukonuka at tighthead prop and hooker Ash Dixon gets the No.2 jersey ahead of Liam Coltman.

The defeat to the Reds ended a five-match winning streak for the Highlanders, who are fifth in the Australasian group and holding the last wildcard.

The Sharks are fourth in the South African group and out of a play-off spot after three successive losses.

Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-capt), Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa, Jason Emery, Jack Wilson, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Liam Squire, Shane Christie (co-capt), Elliot Dixon, Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin, Josh Hohneck, Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Craig Millar, Ross Geldenhuys, Alex Ainley, Dan Pryor, Fumiaki Tanaka, Hayden Parker, Patrick Osborne.

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