Coach: Willie Walker
Assistant coaches: Mel Bosman & James Semple
Captain: Aroha Savage
PLAYER TO WATCH
Tafito Lafaele is a player to keep a close eye on. The 1.8m lock is out of the Papatoetoe Rugby Club, and made her Auckland Storm debut in 2019. She debuted at No.8 , but has since made herself at home in the second row. Lafaele played high-level basketball, netball, volleyball, sevens, rugby and athletics at Botany Downs College and was selected as the school’s personality of the year. Lafaele has impressed in the Sevens game, playing against the Black Ferns in a pre-Olympic preparation tournament for the Moana Pasifika side.
This Blues side have a healthy mixture of youth and experience and with some key players out with injury, some of those younger players will get their chance to show their skills at the next level. Krystal Murray, Maia Roos and Patricia Maliepo got a good taste of international rugby on the end of year tour last year and will only have benefited from the tough encounters against England and France.
New Mum of twins, Aroha Savage has the honour of leading the Blues in Sky Super Rugby Aupiki and she’ll have the backing of fellow experienced Black Ferns teammates Aldora Itunu, Eloise Blackwell and the returning Charmaine Smith, not to mention Black Ferns Sevens stars Tyla Nathan-Wong and Theresa Fitzpatrick.
Speaking of Smith, she returns to top-level rugby having come out of retirement to join the Blues. The 31 year-old hung up the boots two years ago when she was diagnosed with a serious neck condition, but following the birth of her first child last year, scans showed the affliction had cleared and she was able to return to the game. Expect the stalwart lock to bring plenty of mongrel to the Blues forward pack.
Aldora Itunu, Aroha Savage, Charmaine Smith, Chryss Viliko, Cilia-Marie Po’e-Tofaeno, Cindy Nelles, Cristo Tofa, Eloise Blackwell, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook, Krystal Murray, Krysten Cottrell, Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Luisa Togotogoroa, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Mel Puckett, Mele Hufanga, Olivia Ward-Duin, Patricia Maliepo, Princess Elliot, Rebecca Todd, Ruahei Demant, Sam Curtis, Shyanne Thompson, Tafito Lafaele, Tenaija Fletcher, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Vineta Teutau
*All teams are subject to changes
R1 - Blues v Hurricanes Poua - Thursday 10 March, 3.35pm, FMG Stadium Waikato
R2 - Blues v Matatū - Tuesday 15 March, 7.05pm, FMG Stadium Waikato
R3 - Blues v Chiefs - Sunday 20 March, 7.35pm, FMG Stadium Waikato