Allblacks.com takes a look at five key areas where we expect to see some brilliant match ups this weekend. NOTE: Teams are named on Thursday (NZT).
Our top two hookers are expected to lock horns in the front row, with Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate and Luka Connor set to be named as starters for the Blues and Chiefs respectively. Ngata-Aerengamate is one of four Northlanders named in the Blues squad, alongside Krystal Murray, Tyler Nankivell and Stacey Tupe. The 29 year-old has played 30 Tests for the Black Ferns since making her debut in 2014. She sat behind former captain Fiao’o Faamausili in the early part of her international career, before going onto start every Test in 2019. ‘TK’ as she is well-known is strong at set peice and an aggresive ball runner. Her likely opposite is Bay of Plenty born and bred. Luka Connor is relatively new to the Black Ferns set up, making her debut in 2019 in San Diego. She had a strong season for the Volcanix last year in the Farah Palmer Cup and will provide a great challenge to Ngata-Aerengamate at scrum time. She too is dangerous with ball in hand.
Eloise Blackwell vs Kelsie Wills. A Black Ferns stalwart vs a promising newcomer. The Blues skipper is pumped about this fixture and hopes it will be the start of something exciting for the women’s game in New Zealand. Born on Great Barrier Island, Blackwell couldn’t be more proud of representing Auckland and the opportunity to pull on the Blues jersey for the first time. She’ll lead her side with mana, and she’ll be looking forward to lining up against Wills in the second row. Wills only started playing rugby a couple of years ago, having previously represented New Zealand in volleyball. The two have played together for the Probables last year, as well as the Black Ferns in the series against the Barbarians, so they have a fair idea of how each other plays. It should be a good battle.
This is a tough one. We’re fairly confident Charmaine McMenamin will be named at No 8 for the Blues, with the potential for Lisa Molia and Liana Mikaele-Tu’u to join her in their loose forward trio. But we’re intrigued to see what the Chiefs do. They’ve got skipper Les Elder who is usually an openside flanker, Kennedy Simon who can play No 8 and Pia Tapsell who can either play blindside or No 8. Both sides seem to be spoilt for choice in this area, with some hard selection decisions to be made. Regardless of who lines up in the respective loose forward trio’s, we’re expecting some fierce battles.
Another position that provides plenty of intrigue. Will the Blues go with the young and exciting Patricia Maliepo, or will they start with the experience of Ruahei Demant? The duo had a great battle against each other in the November Black Ferns series last year, and don’t forget the Blues also have North Harbour pivot Hayley Hutana in the mix as well. The Chiefs have the accomplished Hazel Tubic who is set to start at 10, while they also have the likes of Chelsea Alley and Renee Holmes who can play first five-eighths as well.
Another battle between Black Ferns team mates looms on the wing. It’s likely we’ll see Blues winger Natahlia Moors go up against Langi Veainu out of the Counties Manukau Heat. They both play a similar style game; they’re strong defenders and ball runners as well as good finishers. Expect to see some tries scored out wide from these two.
Blues v Chiefs women
Saturday 1 May, 4.35pm
Eden Park, Auckland
Live on Sky Sport NZ
Referee: Maggie Cogger-Orr
Assistant 1: Lauren Jenner
Assistant 2: Tiana Ngawati
TMO: Lee Jeffery