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    Smith back for Highlanders

    2016-04-20 09:51

    Sydney - Ben Smith will make a welcome return to the Highlanders this week after sitting out their surprise Super Rugby loss to the Reds due to concussion.

    The 29-year-old All Blacks fullback suffered the concussion during his side's 32-20 victory over Force on April 1 and missed the defeat to the Reds in Brisbane eight days later.

    The Highlanders, who had a bye last week, said on Wednesday Smith had passed concussion tests and named him in the team at fullback to face South Africa's Sharks in Dunedin on Friday.

    Smith's return to the number 15 jersey means Matt Faddes returns to the right wing, while Jack Wilson moves to the left and Patrick Osborne drops to the bench.

    Loose forward Elliott Dixon, whose performances this season have done his All Blacks chances no harm, also returns following a head cut received against the Force.

    The Highlanders had won five successive games before being tripped up by the Reds, who had not registered a victory this season until meeting the 2015 champions.

    The Highlanders are fourth in the New Zealand conference on 23 points and occupy the fifth and final playoffs spot in the Australasian Group.

    The Sharks are fourth in the South African group on 17 points and in danger of losing touch with the third-placed Bulls (23), who occupy the wildcard spot in the eight-team group.

    Teams:

    Highlanders

    15. Ben Smith (captain), 14. Matt Faddes, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Jason Emery, 11. Jack Wilson, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Liam Squire, 7. Shane Christie, 6. Elliot Dixon, 5. Joe Wheeler, 4. Tom Franklin, 3. Josh Hohneck, 2. Ash Dixon, 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown

    Substitutes: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Craig Millar, 18. Ross Geldenhuys, 19. Alex Ainley, 20. Dan Pryor, 21. Fumiaki Tanaka, 22. Hayden Parker, 23. Patrick Osborne

    Sharks

    15. Willie le Roux, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Garth April, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Philip van der Walt, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai Mtawarira (captain)

    Substitutes: 16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17. Thomas du Toit , 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Michael Claassens, 22. Joe Pietersen, 23. S’bura Sithole

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    Fixtures

    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15

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