Highlanders start rookie Tongia against Cheetahs

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has named his Super Rugby team to play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday and given two players their debuts.

Two players will be making their Super Rugby debut and Joseph has gone for a six forward, two back split on the replacements bench.

The debutants are Tasman lock Alex Ainley who comes into the side for Tom Franklin, and Hawkes Bay winger Ryan Tongia who replaces the injured Waisake Naholo.

Ainley, a seasoned ITM cup , campaigner, returns from a fractured jaw sustained playing club rugby two months ago, while league convert Ryan Tongia makes the team after less than a year in the game.

The only other change is at open-side where John Hardie replaces Dan Pryor.

Shane Christie (hamstring) Hayden Parker (shoulder) Joe Wheeler (knee) Kane Hames (knee) Waisake Naholo (foot) were all unavailable due to injury.

Highlanders

1. Brendon Edmonds , 2. Liam Coltman , 3. Josh Hohneck , 4. Alex Ainley , 5. Mark Reddish , 6. Gareth Evans , 7. John Hardie , 8. Nasi Manu (c) , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Richard Buckman , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Ryan Tongia , 15. Ben Smith (c)

Replacements : 16. Ash Dixon , 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown , 18. Ross Geldenhuys , 19. Tom Franklin , 20. Elliot Dixon , 21. Dan Pryor , 22. Fumiaki Tanaka , 23. Marty Banks

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