Super Rugby leaders the Chiefs have made six changes, three of them injury-related, to their starting side for their away match against the Hurricanes.
Lock Dominic Bird (foot), centre Anton Lienert-Brown (knee) and winger James Lowe (shoulder) are among those missing from the side that began the 29-23 win over the Blues before the club’s bye last weekend.
Coach Dave Rennie says Bird was close to being picked and he is confident the former Crusader will be available to face the Sharks in New Plymouth next week.
The match against the Blues marked Bird’s first appearance for the Chiefs after he had been out of action since January recovering from a foot fracture.
Rennie said Lienert-Brown had been back in hospital to have an infected knee drained again, an injury that he picked up in Argentina when the Chiefs played the Jaguares, while Lowe is out with a shoulder problem.
The respective replacements are Michael Allardice, Seta Tamanivalu and Sam McNicol.
At right wing, speedster Toni Pulu returns for Shaun Stevenson, who drops out of the 23 for the fixture in Wellington on Saturday night.
Tom Sanders comes in for Maama Vaipulu at blindside flanker, and Rhys Marshall for Hika Elliot at hooker, with Vaipulu and Elliot both included on the bench.
Also among the reserves is back Andrew Horrell, who is set to play his 50th Super Rugby match and his first of the season after being sidelined with a groin complaint.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Seta Tamanivalu, Charlie Ngatai, Sam McNicol, Aaron Cruden (co-capt), Brad Weber, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane (co-capt), Tom Sanders, Brodie Retallick, Michael Allardice, Atu Moli, Rhys Marshall, Mitchell Graham. Res: Hika Elliot, Siate Tokolahi, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Taleni Seu, Maama Vaipulu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Andrew Horrell, Glen Fisiiahi.