JIMMY COWAN has been handed a golden opportunity to showcase his stuff when the Highlanders take on the Hurricanes in Wellington tomorrow night.
The All Blacks No 9 has been named to start at halfback, ahead of impressive youngster Aaron Smith, in what is one of three changes to the ‘Landers side which beat the Waratahs last weekend.
The other run-on XV tweaks see Ben Smith return at fullback and the man who wore the No 15 jersey against the ‘Tahs, Colin Slade, move to first five in place of the injured Lima Sopoaga (shoulder)
It will be interesting to see how Cowan responds to the challenge of starting his first match since the opening-round victory over the Chiefs.
Smith has been impressive at the base of the scrum for the New Zealand conference leaders since then, with his energy and crisp passing catching the eye and leading many to say he has superseded his more illustrious colleague.
But coach Jamie Joseph has given Cowan a chance to prove he is still the Dunedin-based franchise’s top halfback against the improving ‘Canes.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has named an unchanged team for the match at Westpac Stadium.
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Tamati Ellison, Phil Burleigh, Hosea Gear, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Nasi Manu, John Hardie, Adam Thomson, Nick Crosswell, Josh Bekhuis, Ma'afu Fia, Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh (c)
Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Bronson Murray, Culum Retallick, James Haskell, Aaron Smith, Buxton Popoali’i
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.