A week after returning to Super Rugby, Liam Messam has been elevated to the Chiefs’ run-on side to face the defending champion Highlanders.
Messam’s inclusion at No.8 for the match in Dunedin on Saturday night is one of two personnel changes to the 15 who started the 50-5 win over the Queensland Reds.
He takes over at the back of the scrum from co-captain Sam Cane, who moves to his usual position of openside flanker, while Lachlan Boshier drops to the bench.
After missing selection for the New Zealand sevens’ squad for the Rio Olympics, Messam switched straight back to the 15-a-side game.
The 43-Test All Black came off the bench against the Reds last weekend for his 145th Super Rugby appearance.
The other change in the starting line-up is at lock, with All Black Brodie Retallick returning after being rested against the Reds.
Retallick replaces Taleni Seu, who goes to the reserves.
The Chiefs sit top of the New Zealand conference, heading into the final round of the regular season, but cannot afford a slip-up.
Just three points separate them from the next three sides – the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes, who have all made made the playoffs.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Toni Pulu, Seta Tamanivalu, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Aaron Cruden (co-capt), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam, Sam Cane (co-capt), Tom Sanders, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Atu Moli, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames. Res: Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Hiroshi Yamashita, Taleni Seu, Lachlan Boshier, Brad Weber, Stephen Donald, Sam McNicol.