The first match for this weekend will be the Blues hosting the Highlanders in another New Zealand derby.
The Blues come into the game with one win under their belt. They are, as most people in New Zealand still dealing with the terror attack last week in Christchurch and will be without Sonny Bill Williams this weekend.
It is however great that they have a world cup winning All Black ready to step in.
Williams place will be taken by All Black legend Ma’a Nonu who will put on the 12 jumper for this weekend.
There are two more changes to the Blues side for this weekend’s clash, with Jonathan Ruru returning as starting halfback, with Augustine Pulu dropping back to the bench, while a fit again Alex Hodgman starts at loosehead prop.
With four All Blacks on the bench the Blues have plenty of power to bring on later in the game.
For the Highlanders, Marty Banks will get a shot at the number 10 jersey. This will be Banks first start this season for the Highlanders.
Josh Ioane will move to the bench.
Banks halfback partner will be All Black Aaron Smith and he will have Ben Smith at fifteen to help him settle in.
Tomkinson will partner with Umaga-Jensen in the midfield.
Some interesting facts (By Opta)
- The Highlanders have won six of their last seven Super Rugby games against the Blues, including their last four on the bounce.
- The Blues are winless in their last 20 Super Rugby games against New Zealand opposition (D1, L19); their last derby win came in Round 1, 2016 against the Highlanders (33-31).
- The Highlanders have won just two of their last nine games away from home against fellow New Zealand opposition (L7), trailing at half-time in eight of those nine fixtures.
- Rieko Ioane (Blues) has scored seven tries in his last four Super Rugby games on home turf, as well as providing three try assists in that span.
- Shannon Frizell (Highlanders) scored a hat-trick of tries in his only previous game against the Blues in Super Rugby, and has scored four tries in his last three games overall.
Prediction: Although the Blues have started to play better, the Highlanders are just that one step better at the moment, Highlanders by 13
Highlanders: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Patelesio Tomkinson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Tevita Li, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Dillon hunt, Shannon Frizell, Tom Franklin, Pari Pari Parkinson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: Ray Niuia, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Josh Dickson, Jackson Hemopo, Folau Fakatava, Josh Ioane, Richard Buckman.
BLUES: Melani Nanai, Tanielu Tele’a, TJ Faiane, Ma’a Nonu, Rieko Ioane, Harry Plummer, Jonathan Ruru; Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson (capt), Tom Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: Leni Apisai, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Patrick Tuipulotu, Dalton Papalii, Augustine Pulu, Otere Black, Levi Aumua/Matt Duffie.
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