After two tough losses, the Highlanders’ best player Aaron Smith returns to help ahead of their titanic task against the Chiefs.
In Melbourne, the Rebels also got one of their big props back, but their opponents the Waratahs also have two Wallabies forwards returning.
The Drua also return to Fiji ahead of their first home game against the Crusaders, while Wellington and Canberra prepare to host two major local derbies.
Scroll down for the latest team news:
Chiefs vs. Highlanders, 5:05 p.m. AEDT
Aaron Smith returns as halfback for the Highlanders, but does it matter? The Highlanders have had the toughest start to Super Rugby. After challenging games against the Blues and Crusaders, Clarke Dermody’s side must travel to Waikato to take on the in-form Chiefs.
The match promises to be another challenge for the Highlanders, who were strapped back into Badck matches earlier in the year.
Dermody has made a change to his side, recalling Mitch Hunt at fly-half and switching to full-back for England playmaker Freddie Burns.
Smith’s return at center defense helps, but up front the Highlanders will be tested against an explosive and intimidating pack.
The Chiefs have no shortage of All Blacks stars, with Samisoni Taukei’aho the in-form hooker of the competition, while Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i offer height and power down the middle.
Pita Gus Sowakula drops to the bench for Naitoa Ah Kuoi, joining Sam Cane and Luke Jacobson in a well balanced back row.
Bosses (15-1): Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei’aho, John Ryan, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Sam Cane (c), Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Alex Nankivell, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson
Reserves: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, George Dyer, Pita Gus Sowakula, Samipeni Finau, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona
Highlanders (15-1): Ethan de Groot, Rhys Marshall, Jermaine Ainsley, Pari-Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson, Shannon Frizell, James Lentjies (c), Hugh Renton, Aaron Smith, Mitch Hunt, Mosese Dawai, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Josh Timu, Martin Bogado, Freddy Burns
Reserves: Leni Apisai, Ayden Johnstone, Saula Mau, Fabian Holland, Sean Withy, Kemara Hauiti Parapara, Fetuli Paea, Connor Garden-Bachop
Referee: Paul Williams
Key Facts: The Highlanders have lost 12 straight games to their New Zealand rivals. Interestingly, the Highlanders have the second slowest ruck speed (3.2 seconds) to start the year, while the Chiefs have the second fastest (2.7 seconds).
Rebels vs. Waratahs, 7:35 p.m. AEDT
After their inspired second half against the Hurricanes, Kevin Foote’s Rebels will be looking to turn a narrow loss into an important win.
The rebels put up a much-improved 80-minute effort against the Hurricanes, but were left hanging on death.
But they should have gained some confidence from the team effort, which meant the Rebels’ bench gave their performance plenty of boost.
Cabous Eloff returns to the starting XI for the Rebels in the absence of Sam Talakai.
Otherwise, Foote have named a very solid squad, with Trevor Hosea starting to make his presence felt after last season’s absence.
Josh Kemeny has been promoted back to the starting XI and joins in-form Brad Wilkin and Richard Hardwick in the back row. It’s an unchanged backline.
Their opponents, the Waratahs, have named a solid side from whoever beat Fiji to win comfortably.
Harry Johnson-Holmes is the only change on the side, with the wallaby prop returning for Archer Holz, who is struggling with a rib injury.
Mahe Vailanu flips back onto the side for Tolu Latu while Ned Hanigan comes on the bench ahead of Will Harris.
Hanigan’s return is another sign of the depth being built among the Waratahs, with Harris and Latu unselected.
Rebels (15-1): Matt Gibbon, Alex Mafi, Cabous Eloff, Josh Canham, Trevor Hosea, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin (c), Richard Hardwick, Ryan Louwrens, Carter Gordon, Monty Ioane, Stacey Ili, Reece Hodge, Lachie Anderson, Joe Pincus
Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr, Pone Fa’amausili, Tuiana Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Lukas Ripley, Nick Jooste
Warata (15-1): Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Max Jorgensen, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon (c), Langi Gleeson, Michael Hooper, Lachlan Swinton, Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Dave Porecki, Tom Lambert
Reserves: Mahe Vailanu, Te Tera Faulkner, Daniel Botha, Taleni Seu, Ned Hanigan, Charlie Gamble, Teddy Wilson, Ben Dowling
Referee: Angus Gardner
Key Fact: The Rebels have won two of their last three home games against the Waratahs at home. The rebel set-piece is on fire; They have the highest lineout success rate (94%) and are one of two teams, along with the Crusaders, with a 100% scrum rate.
Drua vs Crusaders, 2:35 p.m. AEDT
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Hurricanes vs. Blues, 5:05 p.m. AEDT
Referee: Nick Berry
Brumbies vs Reds, 7:35 p.m. AEDT
Referee: James Doleman
Force vs. Pacifica, 10 p.m. AEDT
Referee: Jordan way
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/08/super-rugby-teams-rd-3-highlanders-boost-as-smith-returns-wallabies-duo-back-for-tahs/ Third round teams updates rosters Waratahs vs Rebels Brumbies vs Reds Chiefs vs Highlanders analysis