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Sopoaga back for Highlanders

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/05/2017 Angelo Risso

Highlanders first-five Lima Sopoaga will play his first Super Rugby match in more than two months when his side takes on the Western Force in Perth. © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Highlanders first-five Lima Sopoaga will play his first Super Rugby match in more than two months when his side takes on the Western Force in Perth. Highlanders first-five Lima Sopoaga will play his first Super Rugby match in more than two months when his side takes on the Western Force in Perth.

The 26-year-old playmaker picked up a serious hamstring injury in his side's March victory over the Blues, keeping him on the sidelines for more than eight weeks.

But the six-time All Black will make his comeback in Western Australia on Saturday, deputising from the bench for No.10 Marty Banks.

He'll be joined on the pine by Aaron Smith, who has been rested in favour of second-choice halfback Kayne Hammington, and by co-captain Ash Dixon.

One-cap All Black Liam Coltman will start at hooker in Dixon's absence, sandwiched by loosehead Daniel Lienert-Brown and tighthead Siate Tokolahi.

As a result, Elliot Dixon will lead the side from the first minute, joined in the loose forwards' trio by Dillon Hunt and Gareth Evans.

Tevita Li replaces the suspended Waisake Naholo on the left edge, while Tom Franklin has been named to play his 50th Super Rugby match at lock.

Test fullback Ben Smith, meanwhile, remains out.

The Highlanders, coming off tight wins in South Africa over the Cheetahs and Bulls, sit in fourth in the New Zealand conference after 11 games and will be confident of sneaking into the final top eight ahead of the Durban-based Sharks.

The Force, however, have struggled under the weight of an uncertain Super Rugby future and have won just three of 10 matches this season.

HIGHLANDERS: Matt Faddes, Patrick Osborne, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Tevita Li, Marty Banks, Kayne Hammington, Elliot Dixon (co-capt), Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siate Tokolahi, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. RESERVES: Ash Dixon (co-capt), Aki Seiuli, Guy Millar, Joe Wheeler, Jackson Hemopo, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Rob Thompson.

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