You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Flying winger Li to make Highlanders debut

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/02/2017

Former New Zealand age group star Tevita Li is among five players poised to make their Highlanders debut in the season-opening Super Rugby match against the Chiefs.

Speedy North Harbour winger Li, 21, is on the home team's left wing in Dunedin on Friday, selected in front of Highlanders regular of recent seasons, Patrick Osborne.

A prolific tryscorer for national age group sides, Li transferred south after crossing just six times in 35 appearances for the Blues across three seasons.

He is part of a full-strength Highlanders backline which features five All Blacks: captain Ben Smith, winger Waisake Naholo, centre Malakai Fekitoa and halves Lima Sopoaga and Aaron Smith.

It will be a 50th Highlanders appearance for Fekitoa, who also hails originally from the Blues.

The other starting debutant is tighthead prop Siate Tokolahi, who was recruited from the Chiefs.

Three new faces on the bench are halfback Kayne Hammington, prop Guy Millar and hooker Adrian Smith. Smith's promotion is due to injuries suffered by hookers Ash Dixon and Greg Pleasants-Tate.

Also on a sizeable early-season injury list are backs Teihorangi Walden and Marty Banks, and loose forwards Luke Whitelock, Shane Christie and Dan Pryor.

James Lentjes starts on the openside flank while new head coach Tony Smith sprung a minor surprise by naming All Blacks blindside Elliot Dixon on the reserves bench, preferring Gareth Evans to wear the No.6 jersey.

The 2015 champion Highlanders are chasing a seventh successive win over the Chiefs.

Highlanders: Ben Smith (capt), Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Tevita Li, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Liam Squire, James Lentjes, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Adrian Smith, Craig Millar, Guy Millar, Jackson Hemopo, Elliot Dixon, Kayne Hammington, Fletcher Smith, Matt Faddes.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon