Midfielder Corey Evans along with loose forwards Cameron Suafoa and Anton Segner, with just five caps between them, have earned a start in the return clash in the DHL Super Rugby Pacific competition.
The Blues prevailed 32-19 against their neighbours at Mt Smart Stadium, and now complete the catch-up schedule with their third game in eight days, returning to their base at New Zealand rugby’s spiritual home.
The trio impressed coach Leon MacDonald in Tuesday’s hard-fought win to earn a start on Saturday.
“We were pleased with a number of the young guys who have earned another opportunity,” said MacDonald.
“This is a testing time with the schedule, on top of coping with the pandemic and other challenges. We have players some out with injury, illness, the concussion protocol and on All Black load management, which has offered opportunity for other players to put their hands up.”
The trio join an experienced group who come back into the line-up including Kurt Eklund, Marcel Renata, James Tucker, Tom Robinson (who starts at lock) and captain Dalton Papalii in the pack.
All Black Finlay Christie starts at halfback with the return of Stephen Perofeta, Bryce Heem, Caleb Clarke and Zarn Sullivan, with AJ Lam retained on the right wing.
There is plenty of power and purpose to come off the bench led by All Blacks Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi and Luke Romano.
“We managed to convert some key moments on Tuesday but the players are aware that it was far from the complete performance which we are looking for,” said MacDonald.
“We know this period has been challenging but we are looking for more purpose at the collision, and to play with more game-awareness over the full 80 minutes.
“We are coming home with our fantastic 09 fans back to support us at Eden Park. We want to give them a performance they are proud of and that we are more than capable of delivering. We are looking forward to seeing blue everywhere at Eden Park.”
Tickets are on sale for as little as $20 for an adult General Admission ticket which includes up to four children free. Trains and event-buses are incorporated in the price of a pre-purchased ticket.
The Blues team to play Moana Pasifika on Saturday at Eden Park, kick-off 7.05pm (Blues caps in brackets):
1. Alex Hodgman (46)
2. Kurt Eklund (28)
3. Marcel Renata (23)
4. James Tucker (2)
5. Tom Robinson (37)
6. Cameron Suafoa (1)
7. Dalton Papalii© (48)
8. Anton Segner (2)
9. Finlay Christie (22)
10. Stephen Perofeta (36)
11. Caleb Clarke (31)
12. Corey Evans (2)
13. Bryce Heem (11)
14. AJ Lam (11)
15. Zarn Sullivan (10)
16. Soane Vikena (8)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (34)/Jordan Lay (2)
18. Ofa Tuungafasi (111)
19. Luke Romano (4)
20. Adrian Choat (9)
21. Sam Nock (44)
22. Tanielu Tele’a (16)
23. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepens (3)
Players not considered: Beauden Barrett, Josh Goodhue, Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Nepo Laulala, Harry Plummer, Hoskins Sotutu, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sam Darry.