Blues boast virtually unchanged side for Sky Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final
The Blues have virtually an unchanged side to take on the Highlanders in the Sky Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final at Eden Park on Saturday.
Coach Leon MacDonald said he is pleased to have a settled look to his side for what is a special occasion, which is expected to attract a substantial crowd to Eden Park.
The team is buoyed with news today that health insurance company, nib, will remain as the front-of-jersey sponsor until 2024, which will take their support for the club to 10 years.
“We have done the hard work in this competition. We learned from the first comp, and we have been more consistent this time. Our defence has been strong, we have been smarter and had more discipline.
“We have thrown away trying to play the miracle ball, and focussed on playing in the right part of the field, off the back of a good set-piece.
“Of course, we want the boys to enjoy this occasion, and continue to play the type of football that has got them here.”
He said the team will be buoyed with the opportunity to play a final in front of a big contingent of their Blues fans and families.
MacDonald said the team are aware of the threat that the Highlanders possess.
“The Highlanders have been outstanding all season. They have excellent set-piece, they are very accurate and they have some dangerous attacking players. It should be a whale of a game.”
The only change to the Blues from last week’s win over the Western Force is that Akira Ioane will start at loose forward in place of Tom Robinson, who has succumbed to the concussion he received in that game.
The other loss is that All Black prop Ofa Tuungafasi has not recovered sufficiently and will now undergo surgery to tidy up a lingering issue with his knee.
“It’s sad for Ofa who is our longest serving current player while Tom has led us well this year when Patrick was injured. The boys will be determined to do well for them on Saturday.”
The Blues have won four of the last five games against the Highlanders, although their southern opponents have prospered in six of their last 10 encounters dating back to 2017. And six of those games were decided by seven points or less.
The Blues will open the gates for families, with a special offer of $40 for two adults and up to eight children in General Admission. Kick-off is 7.05pm.
For tickets: www.ticketmaster.co.nz
The Blues team is:
15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu (C), 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1. Alex Hodgman.
Reserves: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.
Players not considered with injury: Tanielu Tele’a (calf), Ofa Tuungafasi (knee/finger), Tom Robinson (concussion). (Season-ending): Jone Macilai, Dillon Hunt, James Lay, Emoni Narawa.