The utility back will come into the Forsyth Barr Stadium match in place of Ben Smith, who sits it out following concussion.
Buckman starts at fullback against the Christchurch franchise, getting an earlier introduction into the side than coach Tony Brown had anticipated.
Smith’s absence, with a head knock he picked up against the Chiefs in the season opening loss last Friday, has brought forward the Highlanders’ plans by at last a week.
Brown was planning to wait until round three or four to call up Buckman and lock Joe Wheeler, who both recently completed seasons in Japan.
Buckman hasn’t started a competitive game for the Otago side since they beat the Hurricanes in the 2015 final.
He spent last year on the sidelines after suffering a serious shoulder injury in a pre-season match against French club Racing 92.
The Highlanders have named loose forward Elliot Dixon as their skipper for Saturday’s game as both Smith and his co-captain Ash Dixon (back) are out.
Dixon has swapped places with Gareth Evans, having come off the bench in the opening round 24-15 loss to the Chiefs in Dunedin.
Siosiua Halanukonuka gets the nod for the No 3 jersey in place of Siate Tokolahi, as the only other change to the starting side.
Marty Banks (knee), Luke Whitelock (shoulder), Shane Christie (illness), Dan Pryor (knee), and Greg Pleasants-Tate (knee) are unavailable.
The Crusaders are without first-choice pivot Richie Mo’unga, who has a hand injury.