The Blues return to Eden Park for a demanding clash against the touring Emirates Lions side Saturday 05:25 (SA Time). The Emirates Lions will be hoping to repeat the result from their previous away match against the Blues (13-10) when they last faced the Aucklanders in New Zealand in 2015 (in Albany).
While the Blues have won four games away from home in Super Rugby 2020, both losses have come at home and they are looking to put in a strong performance at Eden Park. The Lions has only won one match from five and is currently at the bottom of the South African log.
Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has made a host of changes to his team. Frans van Wyk, Hacjivah Dayimani and Ruan Vermaak will get their first starts on tour, while Willem Alberts will move to lock, with Vermaak, Dayimani and Marnus Schoeman forming the new loose-trio.
At the back, Manuel Rass returns to action while Jamba Ulengo has recovered sufficiently from a quad contusion to be included in the starting line-up. Tyrone Green moves to fullback. Andries Coetzee (fullback) and Len Massyn (No 8) have both been included on the bench, while Wandisile Simelane was not considered due to a Grade 1 MCL tear in his right knee.
Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu sits out his All Black rest, along with Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 46-game veteran Gerard Cowley-Tuioti gets his first start of the season after coming off the bench in his first game back from an injury in the Mitre-10 Cup.
There’s a strong look to the pack with in-form Karl Tu’inukuafe joining hooker James Parsons and Sione Mafileo forming the front row, while All Black Dalton Papalii returns from his break to join Blake Gibson and Hoskins Sotutu in the loose forwards.
The backline is virtually unchanged with Matt Duffie, like his North Harbour mate Mafileo, playing his 49th game to give Joe Marchant his first spell of the season with TJ Faiane to take over the captaincy.
“The calibre and history of their side suggest that are going to be a tough challenge, as they have been every time we play them,” said coach Leon MacDonald.
“Teams often galvanize for the first game back from South Africa as we did last week against the Hurricanes and the following week is a challenge.
“We adjusted our training accordingly and we will need to produce a performance of quality, aggression and accuracy if we hope to get a positive result.
“Both sides have a history of playing attractive and open running rugby and I am sure we will both enjoy the rare opportunity to play in the late afternoon. It’s a fantastic chance for families to come along and enjoy what should be a terrific match.”
Blues: 15. Stephen Perofeta, 14. Matt Duffie, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. TJ Faiane (captain), 11. Mark Telea, 10. Otere Black, 9. Sam Nock, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 7. Blake Gibson, 6. Dalton Papalii, 5. Jacob Pierce, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Sione Mafileo, 2. James Parsons, 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe. Replacements: 16. Luteru Tolai, 17. Joe Walsh, 18. Marcel Renata, 19. Aaron Carroll/Sam Caird, 20. Akira Ioane, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. Emoni Narawa.
Emirates Lions: 15. Tyrone Green, 14. Jamba Ulengo, 13. Manuel Rass, 12. Dan Kriel, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Elton Jantjies (captain), 9. Andre Warner, 8. Hacjivah Dayimani, 7. Ruan Vermaak, 6. Marnus Schoeman, 5. Marvin Orie, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Frans van Wyk, 2. Jan-Henning Campher, 1. Dylan Smith. Replacements: 16. Pieter Jansen, 17. Sti Sithole, 18. Carlu Sadie, 19. Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20. Len Massyn, 21. Morne van der Berg, 22. Shaun Reynolds, 23. Andries Coetzee.