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Smith eyes Highlanders milestone

Aaron Smith eludes the Hurricanes defenders in their round four clash. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

By Jake Beleski

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Aaron Smith’s 100th match for the Highlanders kicks off a busy weekend of Super Rugby for New Zealand sides.

Only three New Zealand franchises played last weekend, but all five will be in action for round six.

Smith will be expecting to celebrate in style when the Highlanders host the Rebels in Dunedin tonight, after both teams have endured tough starts to the competition.

The Highlanders have won two of their five matches to date, and while the Rebels pushed the Waratahs to the limit last weekend, they should be no match for a Highlanders side looking to build on their come-from-behind win over the Brumbies.

Saturday is a great day for rugby enthusiasts across the country with the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes all in action in quick succession.

The Blues kick things off against the Force at 5.15pm, with only two changes to the side that beat the Bulls last weekend.

Centre Rieko Ioane enjoyed a blistering start to this year’s campaign when he scored a hat-trick in round one against the Rebels, but his patchy form in recent weeks has seen him demoted to the bench, with TJ Faiane promoted to second five and George Moala shifting to centre.

The other change sees the versatile Murphy Taramai come in at openside flanker in place of Blake Gibson.

At 7.35pm the Chiefs will run out in Hamilton to play the Bulls, and will be keen to keep the momentum rolling after cruising through the first five rounds unbeaten.

The players should be fresh after having a bye last weekend, and they should be too strong for a South African side that rarely wins on New Zealand soil.

The Hurricanes are also back in action after a bye in round five, and have made only one change to the side that started their last match against the Highlanders.

Hooker Dane Coles has been rested for the 9.45pm clash with the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, with Ricky Riccitelli taking his place.

The Crusaders round out the action for Kiwi teams on Sunday night when they play the Waratahs in Sydney.

Kick-off is at 6.05pm.

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