Taking the chances they missed in their first game against the Hurricanes will be the goal in what Highlanders captain Aaron Smith calls a critical Super Rugby Pacific game in Dunedin on Saturday.

Halfback Smith said he was excited about the game plan they are taking into the match.

"These derby games come down to little things at key moments, being able to stay in the fight, and in the last month, we've been able to stay in the match for 80 minutes.

"We're going to need a bit of the rub of the green this week but it is all up to us to put ourselves [in the position] to have more moments than them," he said.

Smith said he had been enjoying his friend wing Julian Savea's form for the Hurricanes, and they would have to watch both he and loose forward Ardie Savea while Jordie Barrett, at second five-eighths, was the third factor to be contained.

Marty Banks, playing his 50th Super Rugby game, has been given the start at first five-eighths, renewing a partnership with Smith that began in 2015.

The memories of their partnership were still there, and Smith said he would be looking to achieve his role in providing Banks with the control he needed to run the game.



Coach Tony Brown said usual starter Mitchell Hunt needed a chance to refresh ahead of the Australia tour.

The loss of flanker Shannon Frizell for eight weeks was a blow, and Smith said he felt sorry for him because since joining the Highlanders, he had been one of their best performers every year.

But others had the chance to step in and apply their different strengths to the position, he said.

Smith said he had mixed feelings about his game. But, in the last two weeks, he was happier. He was playing at speed and getting the team around the park. His body was feeling good.

"My main role as captain in this group is to make sure the whole team is in a space where we can perform and are clear on our plans and execute those. That's where a lot of my energy and focus goes," he said.

Former England Test player Denny Solomona is at centre, where Brown believes he can have an impact.

He was an experienced player in rugby and league and provided some confidence for the Highlanders and would have an impact on their game, he said. 

"I'm looking forward to him going out there and playing well," he said.

Joining him in the midfield will be Thomas Umaga-Jensen, who has recovered from his groin injury.

"The Hurricanes play an expansive style, and under the roof we have had some great clashes, so Saturday night should be awesome. We are excited about the opportunity," he said.