Twenty-four year old All Black Steven Luatua has been named to lead the Blues for the rest of the Super Rugby season after captain Jerome Kaino was ruled out with injury.
Luatua, who could play his 50th game for the Blues before the end of the season, was selected with an eye to the future and with the full endorsement of Kaino and Super Rugby’s most enduring player, 170-Super Rugby game veteran, Keven Mealamu.
The rangy and super-skilful loose forward sought the advice of his illustrious All Black teammates before agreeing to take on the role.
ìI was a bit in shock and left for words. I am really humbled and at the same time gutted about the injury to Jerome,î Luatua said.
ìGrowing up as a kid in the region, this is something you aspire to. We still have Kevie but he believes this is the best direction to head in so I will give it my best shot.î
Coach Sir John Kirwan said while the side will certainly miss Kaino both as a player and a leader, it was an excellent opportunity for the future to promote Luatua.
ìWe recognise Steven as a future leader in the club. The experience will help Steven grow as a leader and player and it will be a great support for Jerome in the coming years,î Kirwan said.
Despite the injury list, the new captain wants the Blues to finish the season strongly, with four games at their home base of Eden Park to follow Friday’s match against the Rebels.
ìI want to finish with a 100 per cent record now I have the armband and I want the team to play the best footy they can.
ìThe guys who have not got a lot of minutes so far know that this is their time. My job as captain is to make them feel comfortable and allow them to go out and express themselves.î
The Blues will offer the opportunity for three further players to join the team after the injuries to Kaino, Luke Braid, Charles Piutau and Blake Gibson, playing with the New Zealand Under-20 side in Australia.
The 22-year-old North Harbour utility back, Matt McGahan will join for the rest of the season, after playing for the Blues Development side. Waitemata club No 8 Airi Hunt will provide cover to be reviewed after the match against the Bulls while Northland fans will be thrilled with the promotion of Tongan loose forward Jack Ram who joins as cover for Friday’s game against the Rebels in Melbourne.
The team to play the Rebels will be named on Thursday morning.