Despite not having played in any of the side's pre-season games, the Chiefs captain Liam Messam will start in the side's Super Rugby season opener on Saturday night.
The Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton, with Messam passed fit after suffering a calf injury while warming up for the side's first pre-season match.
World Cup winners Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui will pair up in the midfield.
The young loose forward Sam Cane has edged out the experienced Tanerau Latimer for the openside flanker's role. Former All Black halfback Brendan Leonard will start ahead of Tawera Kerr-Barlow.