Inspirational Blues and all Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will establish a new Super Rugby record at the QBE Stadium on Saturday night.
Mealamu has been named in the starting line-up to meet the Lions from South Africa which will be his 163rd appearance in Super Rugby. This will make him the all-time leader in Super Rugby, a mark he currently shares with retired former Reds, Force and Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe.
It is the first game of the season for Mealamu who made his debut in 2000.
“Congratulations on becoming the most experienced player in Super Rugby history,” said SANZAR Chief Executive, Greg Peters.
“You possess one of the most decorated CVs in world rugby, which is a thoroughly deserved product of your hard work, dedication and an unwavering desire to continue raising both your own standards, and those of others around you.
“As a player with vast experience from club to Test level, you are a role model that has inspired a generation of young players and we can count ourselves lucky as they come through the ranks using your career and principles as inspiration.”
Mealamu has been named alongside fellow All Black Charlie Faumuina and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who gets his first start of the season.
Steven Luatua is back to his regular starting spot in the loose forwards with captain Jerome Kaino and Luke Braid.
Last year’s Blues Development player of the year, Melani Nanai has earned a second start after a useful debut in South Africa as a replacement, to be joined by Frank Halai, who makes his first appearance of the season following rehabilitation from an off-season shoulder operation.
All Black Charles Piutau remains at centre and is paired in the midfield by Francis Saili.
It is a busy weekend for the organisation with several members of the Blues squad expected to be named today in Blues A team to play the Argentina Pampas at Pakuranga FRC on Friday.
The Argentine side is preparing to play in the Pacific Challenge and includes the best home-grown talent including Pumas players Manuel Montero and Tomas Cubelli as they work towards their inclusion into the Super Rugby competition next year.
Saturday afternoon will feature the Westie Pies Blues Secondary Schools Invitational 10s Tournament at QBE Stadium, where 16 high schools compete in the 10-a-side competition.
The competing teams are high schools from Orewa, Otahuhu, Whangarei, Papatoetoe, Aorere, Massey, Kings, Onehunga, Rangitoto, Rosmini, Mt Albert, Tangaroa, Takapuna, Westlake, De La Salle and Kelston.
The semifinals and final will be the official curtain raiser competition to be screened on Sky Television, before the Blues take on the Lions a7 7.35pm.
- Ofa Tu’ungafasi
- Keven Mealamu
- Charlie Faumuina
- Josh Bekhuis
- Patrick Tuipulotu
- Steven Luatua
- Luke Braid
- Jerome Kaino
- Jimmy Cowan
- Ihaia West
- Melani Nanai
- Francis Saili
- Charles Piutau
- Frank Halai
- Lolagi Visinia