Several players return to the starting lineup this weekend with Roger Tuivasa-Sheckpartnering Bryce Heem in the midfield and Kurt Eklund getting the nod at hooker. Meanwhile, Taufa Funaki and AJ Lam get their first starts of the season at halfback and wing respectively.
After a successful return from injury off the bench in the last two matches, Akira Ioane will start at blindside flanker and a positional shift sees Beauden Barrett run at fullback with Harry Plummer slotting in at first-five.
Blues Captain Dalton Papalii said this weekend’s match against cross-town rivals Moana Pasifika has a couple of close connections that’s added some spice to home life.
“I live with Ezekiel Lindenmuth and Sam Slade from the Moana team so it’s fair to say bragging rights and washing up duties at our house are on the line this weekend!”
“We’re good mates and have played together at provincial level so I’m looking forward to locking horns against them in the Super Rugby arena.”
After three wins in a row, Blues Head Coach Leon Macdonald wants the team to capitalise on the momentum they’ve managed to build in recent weeks.
“It’s been about switching on and getting our mindset right for this weekend,” said MacDonald.
“One of the hardest challenges in sport is consistency and I’ve been encouraging the boys to find what works for them to ensure they have a ruthless mindset to take on Moana Pasifika this weekend.”
“It’s starting to be a pretty congested middle of the points table as the playoff race heats up. We need to continue accumulating points as we’ve done in recent weeks to keep pushing for home advantage in the quarterfinals.”
Skipper Papalii is also encouraging his team to take it to their cross-town rivals on Saturday night.
“We can’t sit on our hands this week and think it’s just going to happen for us, we have togo at this game and solidify our spot in that top four. Moana Pasifika have shown they can score tries from anywhere and when they get a roll on, they can be hard to stop.”
- Ofa Tuungafasi
- Kurt Eklund
- Marcel Renata
- James Tucker
- Sam Darry
- Akira Ioane
- Dalton Papalii
- Cam Suafoa
- Taufa Funaki
- Harry Plummer
- Caleb Clarke
- Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
- Bryce Heem
- AJ Lam
- Beauden Barrett
- Soane Vikena
- Joshua Fusitu’a
- James Lay
- Tom Robinson
- Anton Segner
- Finlay Christie
- Rieko Ioane
- Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens
Players not considered: Alex Hodgman (shoulder, season), Nepo Laulala (calf), Stephen Perofeta (shoulder), Hoskins Sotutu (illness), Tanielu Telea (knee), Mark Telea (rest), Patrick Tuipulotu (knee)