Hello and welcome to live updates from tonight's Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Blues in Dunedin.
Last night we witnessed a thrilling finish when a depleted Chiefs side upset the Crusaders on their own turf. Can tonight's match top it?
All the Blues chat in the offseason has been about high profile signing Benji Marshall. How smooth will his transition be from league to rugby? Does he have what it takes to cut it at the top level? What position will he play? Well, tonight we will have to wait to find out because he is starting on the bench.
John Kirwan has decided Marshall isn't ready for a start at either first-five or fullback. So Chris Noakes will start at No10 with Charles Piutau at fullback.
Another key selection is at loosehead prop where Ofa Tu'ungafasi will make his first start for the Blues after impressing the coaching staff during the pre-season. Tony Woodcock is unavailable for the match, as is fellow All Black Keven Mealamu.
And despite producing a number of fine performances at centre during the pre-season, George Moala reverts to the wing tonight as Kirwan has gone for the experienced combination of Francis Saili and Jackson Willison in the midfield.
15. Charles Piutau,14. Frank Halai,13. Jackson Willison,12. Francis Saili,11. George Moala,10. Chris Noakes,9. Piri Weepu,8. Peter Saili,7. Luke Braid,6. Steven Luatua,5. Tom Donnelly,4. Liaki Moli,3. Charlie Faumuina,2. James Parsons,1. Ofa Tu 'ungafasi,
Replacements : 16. Tom McCartney,17. Sam Prattley,18. Angus Ta 'avao,19. Patrick Tuipulotu,20. Brendon O 'Connor,21. Bryn Hall,22. Benji Marshall,23. Tevita Li
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has named six players to make their starting debut tonight. Kane Hames, Gareth Evans, Shane Christie, Patrick Osborne, Malakai Fekitoa and Richard Buckman will all be hard to recognise for the casual fan.
They will be looking to the experience of Ben and Aaron Smith to lead the back line in a very in-experienced team.
1 . Kane Hames , 2 . Liam Coltman , 3 . Chris King , 4 . Brad Thorn , 5 . Jarrad Hoeata , 6 . Gareth Evans , 7 . Shane Christie , 8 . Nasi Manu (co.captain) , 9 . Aaron Smith , 10 . Lima Sopoaga , 11 . Patrick Osborne , 12 . Shaun Treeby , 13 . Malakai Fekitoa , 14 . Richard Buckman , 15 . Ben Smith (co.captain)
Replacements : 16 . Ged Robinson, 17 . Matias Diaz, 18 . Craig Millar, 19 . Josh Bekhuis, 20 . TJ Ioane, 21 . Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 . Hayden Parker, 23 . Phil Burleigh
I'm Steven Holloway and tonight I will be your eyes and ears if you can't watch the action. Feel free to join in on the chat by clicking 'comment' and having your say. If your banter is good, I will make you famous.
So, 30 minutes till kick off. Who you got? The TAB has the Blues as $1.70 favourites and the Highlanders at $2.05. Esteemed Herald rugby writer Gregor Paul is sitting next to me and has picked a Blues win tonight and also big Charlie Faumuina to score the first try at $40-1.
Here is what new Herald columnist Justin Marshall thinks about tonight's two teams.
This is a team that may slip under the radar and I believe that's where they're at their most comfortable. They didn't cope particularly well with the x-factor players they had last season and the increased expectation that brought.
They're a team that's at their best when they feel like they have to fight for everything.
Take Smith and Smith - Ben and Aaron - out of the equation and they don't have a lot of star players and that will almost force them to go back to what they do best.
Conversely, if things don't start well, they could go downhill in a hurry. Although they've lost a few high-profile players, the core of this side is essentially the same.If they get off to a difficult start, it will feel like they've never got out of that losing pattern from last year and that could have a terrible effect on confidence and fortitude.
One player they can't afford to lose form is Ben Smith. There were times last season when it felt like he was holding the side together. The Highlanders cannot afford a guy like this to get disillusioned by being on a consistently losing team. A couple of early wins is imperative.
There's a sense of anticipation at the Blues, much of it around the million-dollar question of how Benji Marshall is going to adapt. Don't ask me, because I honestly haven't got a clue yet. He will need to attack more direct and straight than the lateral movements of a half in league or the rest of that talented backline will suffer. However, he is talented, I love that he had taken on the challenge and I do believe he will be successfull.
Ma'a Nonu is also back and when you combine his skillset and experience with the likes of Charlie Piutau, you see a backline that has the ability to break down any defence.
Where I have my doubts is the tight five's ability to lay on consistent quality ball.
I know Ali Williams caught the eye often for the wrong reasons last year - particularly when it came to discipline and a body language that spoke of frustration. But he was also their most consistent and reliable ball winner and brought loads of big-game experience. A lot of the tight five onus will now shift to the brilliant Charlie Faumuina and his ball-carrying ability.
The Blues must come up with a gameplan that makes the most of their incredible individual talent, while still working for the team as a whole.
Where is everyone tuning in from tonight? Last year we had a follower from Antarctica. Can we trump that in 2014?
Overall the Highlanders have played the Blues 22 times since 1996 and they have won 8 matches and lost 14 times. That gives the Highlanders a record of winning just 36% of their Super Rugby matches against the Blues.
Nice to have you on board Celtics18. As the sole respondent you currently hold the most exotic location of 2014 by default.
Well kick off is just seven minutes away. I will try to make the game finish as quickly as possible for you. And Te Awamutu is the new winner.
Great to have you on board. We are very nearly ready to go. The television coverage is still in Benji overdrive, a two minute Marshall promo is just coming to an end.
The players are making their way out onto the field now. Blues are out first and get a muted welcome. Now the Highlanders turn and the crowd give them a loud, proud welcome.
It's O-week in Dunedin and 'the zoo' looks full and ready to party.
We are underway, Highlanders kick off and it's quickly in the arms of Weepu.
Early penalty to the Blues. Noakes will kick for touch.
Blues driving hard through the middle of the field and have earned a penalty advantage.
Penalty awarded to the Blues.
Noakes will line up a shot at goal now from about 40m out and pretty straight on.
No wind and no rain, should be no excuses for kicks tonight. But he has missed. A bit low and a bit wide.
Good start for the Blues, Piutau makes a solid break through the midfield but they loose the ball in the ruck.
Highlanders are able to clear and now the Blues have a lineout deep in their own half.
Highlanders earn a penalty this time. Big George Moala is the offending party.