Update: 2:39PM THE Chiefs have made six personnel changes and two further positional switches for what coach Dave Rennie describes as a "season-defining" Super Rugby game against the NSW Waratahs.
All Blacks five-eighth Aaron Cruden makes his first start for eight weeks after breaking his thumb, replacing Gareth Anscombe for the game in New Plymouth on Saturday.
Cruden struggled when he came on for the last half hour of last weekend's 45-8 drubbing at the hands of the Hurricanes and will be out to prove he is ready to wear the All Blacks No.10 jersey against England next month.
Two other changes in the backline see Bundee Aki make way at inside centre for Andrew Horrell while Tom Marshall is recalled at fullback, pushing Tim Nanai-Williams to centre and relegating Charlie Ngatai.
Prop Jamie Mackintosh and lock Matt Symons are both handed their fifth start of the season, replacing Pauliasi Manu and Mike Fitzgerald respectively.
Tanerau Latimer is also dropped to the reserves bench, allowing Liam Squire to come in at No.8 and Liam Messam to shift to his preferred blindside flank role.
Rennie has made wholesale changes a regular feature of the two-time defending champions' season.
He hopes he has got it right for his eighth-placed team following last week's humbling in Wellington, their heaviest loss for five years.
"With only two points separating the top four teams in the New Zealand conference, every game is vital and this stems as season-defining," Rennie said.
The second-placed Waratahs' last three games have been high-scoring wins, leaving the Chiefs in full respect of the Australian visitors.
"They have a huge pack and a backline full of game-breakers. Both teams play a positive brand of footy so it should be a hell of a contest," Rennie said.
It is the second game the Chiefs have taken to New Plymouth this year, having beaten the Blues 32-20 there three weeks ago.
Chiefs: Tom Marshall, Dwayne Sweeney, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden (co-capt), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Squire Sam Cane, Liam Messam (co-capt), Brodie Retallick, Matt Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Nathan Harris, Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Pauliasi Manu, Josh Hohneck, Michael Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, Brad Weber, Gareth Anscombe, Bundee Aki