The Chiefs and Blues starts everything for us on Saturday in the FMG Stadium Waikato.
The Blues have been a surprise to many they way that they have gone along this season. Beside the fact that they are winning games this season, it is more about how they do it.
The games they were loosing last year they are winning by playing simple rugby again.
That simple rugby has been display by their forwards who are winning set pieces, compete with the best at ruck time and showing the maturity to close out games like they showed last week against the Waratahs.
They are facing the Chiefs who also have made a turn for the good after a poor start to the season.
They are still not close to were they should be on the log and this will be an important match after their short successful tour.
Head Coach Colin Cooper has selected a strong twenty three to face the Blues.
They will have a new front row combination with Angus Ta’avao moving to loosehead for the injured Aidan Ross.
Nathan Harris will keep his number 2 jumper and Nepo Laulala at tighthead.
Ryan Coxon and Sosefo Kautai will provide cover from the bench.
Fans will be happy to see Brodie Retallick returning. He will be partner by Tyler Ardron.
Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier and Taleni Seu will make up the loose trio.
The backline will be unchanged from the one that beat the Jaguares in Argentina.
The Blues will have All Blacks Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi back in the starting team for the Chiefs clash.
Alex Hodgman and Sione Mafileo will move to the bench and will fill the role as impact players later in the match.
Gerard Cowley-Tuioti will also return to the pack as well as Dalton Papalii
The rest of the team will be the same as they one that beat the Waratahs last week at home.
“We are fortunate to have a group of strong and in-form props,” said coach Leon MacDonald. “Alex and Sione had the advantage of a full pre-season to earn the start and have not put a foot wrong.
“But Karl and Ofa have been working exceptionally hard and given us real energy off the bench. They now have their chance to start and we will look to get that same level of input from our energisers when they come on.
The backline of the Blues have been inform this season with Rieko Ioane making 16 clean breaks this far as he is set to play another major role in this game for the Blues.
All Black coach Hansen will also be happy with the seven tries the big man has scored this season.
Some Interesting Facts (By: OPTA)
- The Chiefs are undefeated in their last 14 Super Rugby games against the Blues (W13, D1); though, only one of the previous eight clashes between the teams has been decided by a margin of greater than seven points
- The Chiefs are winless in their last four New Zealand derbies in Super Rugby, despite having led at half-time twice in that time.
- The Blues have won their last four Super Rugby games on the bounce; the last time they won more was a seven-game glut in the 2011 campaign.
- The Chiefs have made a competition-high 12 offloads per game this Super Rugby season, two more per game than the Blues.
- Rieko Ioane (Blues) has made 16 clean breaks this Super Rugby season, the most of any player in the competition, while his try tally of seven is the joint second-most of any player
Prediction: This is a difficult one with both teams on the up, but we will stick with the Blues by 5
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Brodie Retallick (c), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Angus Ta’avao.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ryan Coxon, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Ataata Moeakiola.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.