Blockbusting Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean, having recovered from heart surgery, will make his Super Rugby return against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Fruean’s last appearance for the Chiefs was in the 36-20 win over the Stormers in mid-March, when the 25-year-old complained of shortness of breath.
He was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and underwent a surgical procedure.
Fruean had open heart surgery seven years ago, before returning to rugby two years later.
He struggled to play the full 80 minutes in four seasons at the Crusaders and, after a second operation to replace a faulty valve, joined the Chiefs this year.
He goes into the match against the Highlanders with club rugby under his belt and his selection sets up the prospect of a mouth-watering duel with another explosive runner in new All Black Malakai Fekitoa.
Fruean’s inclusion is one of eight changes to the Chiefs’ starting 15.
Among the others is the return of halfback Augustine Pulu from a knee injury, with All Black Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the bench.
The Chiefs went into the June international window with two successive losses that dented their hopes of a third title in a row.
The Highlanders have also lost their last two to be fifth on the table, three places but only three points above the Chiefs.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says his players know the challenge in front of them.
“This is a massive game and we have prepared really well,” he said.
“We realise the importance of this fixture and from here on in every match is like a play-off.”
Chiefs: Gareth Anscombe, Dwayne Sweeney, Robbie Fruean, Bundee Aki, Tom Marshall, Aaron Cruden (co-capt), Augustine Pulu, Liam Squire, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam (co-capt), Brodie Retallick, Michael Fitzgerald, Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger, Pauliasi Manu.
Reserves: Nathan Harris, Jamie Mackintosh, Josh Hohneck, Matt Symons, Tevita Koloamatangi, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tim Nanai-Williams, James Lowe.