Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia rung the changes in naming his team Thursday to take on the Highlanders in Invercargill, New Zealand, this weekend.

Tiatia's run-on XV shows seven changes and one positional switch from the side that started last week's 50-3 loss to the Crusaders as the former All Black looks to get one up on Highlanders coach Tony Brown and his assistant Mark Hammett, who coached the Sunwolves in their inaugural season.

Brown will leave the 2015 Super Rugby champions at the end of the season to become assistant coach with the Japan national team and, having been part of the Brave Blossoms set-up during the November 2016 test matches, knows many of the Sunwolves well like Hammett.

None more so than Fumiaki Tanaka, who played alongside Brown at Panasonic Wild Knights before the New Zealander coached him at both Otago and the Highlanders.

Tanaka starts at scrumhalf for the Sunwolves on Saturday and said he was excited about playing in front of the fans that made him so welcome during his time in New Zealand's south island.

"I am really excited about playing against the Highlanders as a member of the Sunwolves," he said. "I have a special feeling for them and I can find out how I have improved from last season with the Highlanders."

"Our set piece has improved so that will be our strength and the backs are preparing very good tactics for the game."

Tanaka partners Yu Tamura in a backline that sees Timothy Lafaele move from 13 to 12 and William Tupou come in at outside center.

"I am really happy with how Derek Carpenter has been playing but just want Tupou -- who has not started a game since the Cheetahs match in South Africa -- to get an opportunity," Tiatia said.

Kotaro Matsushima and Takaaki Nakazuru keep their places in the back three where they are joined by Yasutaka Sasakura, who is making his first appearance for the side this season.

In the forwards, Willie Britz makes a welcome return having missed the last two games as the result of a family bereavement.

The South African-born No. 8 teams up in the back row with captain Ed Quirk and Yuhimaru Mimura, who is promoted from the bench.

With Liaki Moli forced to miss the remaining games in New Zealand as the result of a concussion, Uwe Helu comes in at lock to partner Sam Wykes, while Yasuo Yamaji and Yusuke Niwai are handed the No. 2 and 3 jerseys and pack down with Keita Inagaki in the front row.

"The game against the Crusaders was disappointing because we could not do what we wanted to do and execute our game plan," said Inagaki. "But we have learnt from it and understand our individual roles and if we execute properly we have a chance to win the game."

The bench sees Takeshi Kizu, Koki Yamamoto and Heiichiro Ito provide the front-row cover with Shinya Makabe and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco the two other replacement forwards.

Yuki Yatomi, Hayden Cripps and the elusive Jamie-Jerry Taulagi will look to add some spark to the backs should they get called into action.

"The Highlanders and Sunwolves have a great connection and we know they are going to be well planned and prepared," said Tiatia. "But we are well prepared for the challenge."