Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu is hampered by shoulder pain for a second week and will miss their important Super Rugby match against the Chiefs in Invercargill.
Fullback Ben Smith will be stand-alone skipper again after it was determined that tough No.8 Manu should await the results of scans.
Manu was a late withdrawal from last weekend’s 23-6 win over the Force in Perth, making way for Dan Pryor.
Pryor keeps his spot for Saturday’s game pitting together the second and third-placed New Zealand conference teams but there are three changes elsewhere.
Tom Franklin returns at lock in place of Mark Reddish, who suffered a hand injury in Perth.
There are also recalls for inside centre Richard Buckman and blindside flanker Elliot Dixon for Shaun Treeby and Gareth Evans respectively.
With the competition-leading Hurricanes having nearly sewn up New Zealand conference honours, the Invercargill clash may well shape the play-off wildcard makeup for both Kiwi teams.
Coming off two wins from three on their tour of South Africa and Australia, the Highlanders will play their last home game of the regular season before fixtures away to the Hurricanes and Blues.
It is the Highlanders’ first game for more than two years in Invercargill, where they have won seven of their 13 matches.
Highlanders: Ben Smith (capt), Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Patrick Osborne, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, Dan Pryor, John Hardie, Elliot Dixon, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ross Geldenhuys, Joe Latta, Gareth Evans, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks, Jason Emery.