Fijian-born Hooker, Soane Vikena, is elevated to the starting line-up this weekend, with the bustling front rower set to make his first start in a Blues jersey.
“I’m honoured and privileged to get my first start for the Blues and to do it in Fiji makes the occasion even more special,” said Vikena.
“When I was named in the team earlier this week, I was in a bit of shock! I’m not sure I paid too much attention to the rest of the names being read out!”
Marcel Renata also joins the front row in place of Nepo Laulala while Zarn Sullivan gets the nod at fullback for an injured Stephen Perofeta.
Blues Head Coach, Leon MacDonald, said Vikena has worked hard over a long period of time and deserves his chance to start in blue.
“Soane’s impressed off the bench and I know he’s very excited to run out for his first Blues start in front of friends and family in Fiji,” said MacDonald.
The task ahead of the Blues is a big one with the heat and crowd two factors the team have discussed this week before flying out to Fiji today.
“We know these guys will be physical, we know the crowd will be loud and we know we’ll need to be at our best to come away with the points on Saturday,” said MacDonald.
“It’s no secret the Drua are a tough prospect at home - something we’ve already seen this Super Rugby campaign. We’ve tweaked a few things at training this week, including some ‘heat’ fitness sessions to simulate the conditions over there.”
The Blues have scored 50+ points in their previous two Super Rugby Pacific matches and could become just the third team in Super Rugby history to score 50+ points in three consecutive matches.
Blues Captain, Dalton Papalii, said while the attacking ability of the team can’t be questioned, all aspects of their game will need to click on Saturday.
“It’s been pleasing to nail back-to-back wins; we want to keep that momentum rolling as we head over to Fiji to take on the Drua,” said Papalii.
“Having watched the video this week, we know the Drua have points in them, so our defence is as much a focus this match as anything else.”
“We need to match them physically and that starts with us as a forward pack. We know it’ll be hot and humid and we’re going over there to bring our own kind of heat to the contest this Saturday.”
1: Ofa Tuungafasi
2: Soane Vikena
3: Marcel Renata
4: Cameron Suafoa
5: Sam Darry
6: Adrian Choat
7: Dalton Papalii (c)
8: Hoskins Sotutu
9: Finlay Christie
10: Beauden Barrett
11: Caleb Clarke
12: Harry Plummer
13: Rieko Ioane
14: Mark Telea
15: Zarn Sullivan
Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay, James Lay, James Tucker, Akira Ioane, Sam Nock, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam