Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Friday 5.35pm (AEST)
Last meeting: Round 18 2011 - Blues 33 bt Highlanders 16 at Eden Park
Head-to-head: Played 18 Highlanders 5 Blues 13
In Dunedin: Played 9 Highlanders 4 Blues 5
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZL)
TV: Live, FoxSports 3
TAB Sportsbet: Highlanders $1.55 Blues $2.40
Greg Growden writes: It’s getting desperate at the Blues, with their under seige coach Pat Lam picking two newcomers - fullback Hadleigh Parkes and winger George Moala. As Lam explains: ‘‘The rewards far outweighs the risks.’’ Best of luck, Risky Pat.
The Breakdown: Force in a vacuum
Perth's side are the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons, while the Brumbies smell Bulls blood, the Reds tackle the Stormers and the Tahs meet the Rebels.
AAP writes: Who would have picked the Blues to be staring down the barrel of their fifth successive loss? The prospects for the Blues look bleak again, with fullback Rudi Wulf out with a shoulder injury and Hadleigh Parkes given the No.15 jersey for the first time at Super Rugby level. Hooker Keven Mealamu is also sidelined with a calf complaint, with breakaway Luke Braid the new skipper. The second-placed Highlanders are coming off a bye and also have extra incentive for a victory with popular halfback Jimmy Cowan announcing this week he'll leave at season-end to play in England.
HIGHLANDERS: Tamati Ellison, Kade Poki, Phil Burleigh, Shaun Treeby, Hosea Gear, Mike Delany, Aaron Smith, Nasi Manu, James Haskell, Adam Thomson, Jarrad Hoeata, Josh Bekhuis, Chris King, Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh (c). Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Ma’afu Fia, Doug Tietjens, Culum Retallick, Jimmy Cowan, Chris Noakes, Kurt Baker.
BLUES: Hadleigh Parkes, George Moala, Rene Ranger, Ma’a Nonu, Benson Stanley, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (c), Chris Lowrey, Filo Paulo, Ali Williams, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Tevita Mailau, Liaki Moli, Daniel Braid, Piri Weepu, Michael Hobbs, David Raikuna.