Ma’a Nonu will debut for the Blues and Piri Weepu will make his first start when the Blues take on the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday morning (6.10am NZT).
After returning from a stint in Japan with the Ricoh Black Rams just two weeks ago, World Cup winning second five-eighths Nonu will get his first chance to don the Blues jersey and inject some much needed direction and composure into the side.
His All Blacks teammate Weepu will also make his first start after coming off the bench in the opening two matches, replacing Alby Mathewson at halfback in one of eight changes to the starting XV.
Charlie Faumuina has recovered from a knee injury to start at tighthead prop in place of Tevita Mailau, while Pauliasi Manu replaces Tom McCartney at loosehead.
In the absence of Jerome Kaino who suffered a shoulder injury last week, Chris Lowrey moves to number eight as Luke Braid makes his first start of the season at blindside flanker.
In the backs, Gareth Anscombe will also make his first run-on appearance for the Blues at first five-eighths in place of Michael Hobbs after a solid cameo off the bench last week, while Benson Stanley slides out one position to centre to accommodate the introduction of Ma’a Nonu at second five-eighths.
Rene Ranger returns to the left wing in place of the injured Rudi Wulf, forming a new back three combination with right wing Sherwin Stowers and fullback Lachie Munro who has overcome an ankle injury.
Most of the changes have been forced through unavailability and injury, but coach Pat Lam says managing players at altitude also has to be factored in.
“After a long trip over and then playing at altitude, we have to consider a few factors when naming the 22, along with who we have fit and available to play,” Lam said.
The Blues team to face the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday morning (6.10am NZT) is:
Unavailable: Jerome Kaino, Michael Hobbs, Isaia Toeava, George Moala, Tony Woodcock, Rudi Wulf