Aaron Smith returns for Highlanders’ must-win clash

Aaron Smith, Sam Gilbert and Jonah Lowe are all back in the Highlanders’ run-on side this week for their must-win clash with the Melbourne Rebels.

The Highlanders are currently second-last on the Super Rugby Pacific ladder, but would rise above the 10th placed Rebels with a win on Saturday.

All Black Ethan de Groot will start at loosehead prop again this week, and will pack down in the front row alongside Andrew Makalio and Jermaine Ainsley.

Shannon Frizell and Will Tucker will combine in the second row, while the inclusion of Sean Withy is the sole change in the loose forward trio.

Billy Harmon will captain the team from openside flanker, while the in-form Hugh Renton will line up at the back of the scrum.

The Highlanders’ halves duo boasts some impressive international experience, with Aaron Smith set to combine with former England pivot Freddie Burns.

Sam Gilbert and Fetuli Paea will link up in the midfield, and Jonah Lowe is the only change to the outside backs.

On the bench, replacement Mitch Hunt is set to play his 50th match in Highlanders colours – and his 95th match at Super Rugby level.

The match between the Highlanders and Rebels is set to get underway at 4.35pm NZST on Saturday at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.