All Blacks Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden are among four faces introduced to the Chiefs’ starting line-up for Friday’s Super Rugby match against the Brumbies in New Plymouth.
The key pair missed last Saturday’s opening round 23-18 win over the Blues.
Messam replaces Johan Bardoul on the blindside flank and will captain the team while Cruden’s return means a demotion to the reserves bench for 19-year-old five-eighth Damian McKenzie, who shone against the Blues.
A third current All Black, lock Brodie Retallick, has been named on the bench for what should be his first appearance since being named world rugby player of the year.
Two former All Blacks will also make their first start of the year.
Jamie Mackintosh replaces loosehead prop Pauliasi Manu while Super Rugby centurion Hosea Gear makes his first Chiefs appearance.
Gear starts on the left wing, with James Lowe shifting to fullback in place of the injured Tom Marshall (knee).
On the reserve bench, a Chiefs debut is possible for hooker Quentin MacDonald while 2014 NPC player of the year Seta Tamanivalu could make his Super Rugby debut.
Tamanivalu’s power at centre was a key reason for Taranaki’s maiden NPC title.
Coach Dave Rennie says he is spoiled for options.
“There is a huge amount of competition for places and we are excited to have our returning All Blacks back in the mix,” he said.
Chiefs: James Lowe, Bryce Heem, Charlie Ngatai, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear, Aaron Cruden, Brad Weber, Maama Vaipulu, Sam Cane, Liam Messam (capt), Michael Fitzgerald, Matt Symons, Siate Tokolahi, Hika Elliot, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Pauliasi Manu, Ben Tameifuna, Brodie Retallick, Tevita Koloamatangi, Augustine Pulu, Damian McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu