The Blues travel to Tokyo this weekend to take on the Sunwolves for the very first time as the pair’s Super Rugby seasons come to an end.
Powerhouses during the Super 12 and Super 14 eras, the Auckland-based team have struggled in recent years, and it’s been no surprise that they were one of New Zealand’s poorest teams again this season.
The current format of the game has not been kind to Tana Umaga’s side, who, in sixth place in the Australasian Group, have won more games and picked up more points than the Brumbies, who are second, and guaranteed a place in the play-offs.
But, they can have no complaints as they were just not good enough this year, and will be looking to end the campaign on a high note against a Sunwolves outfit that’s picked up just one win – against the Bulls – and are looking like a deer in the headlights.
The Japan-based side have been hapless in recent weeks, and were handed hidings in Cape Town and Johannesburg by the Stormers and the Lions. And, they will have to be at their very best to avoid the same happening when the three-time Super 12 champions visit the Japanese capital.
Recent history of New Zealand sides arriving at the Sunwolves does not bode well for the hosts too as the only other side who have made the trip were the Hurricanes, who blew them away 83-17 in the opening round of this season.
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Willy Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Tu Tamura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz (c), 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Malgene Ilaua, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kotaro Yatabe, 3 Koo Jiwon, 2 Takeshi Hino, 1 Koki Yamamoto
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Yasuo Yamaji, 19 Yuya Odo, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Rene Ranger
Date: Saturday, July 15
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 12:05 local (03:05 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Akihisa Aso, Tasuku Takawahara
TMO: Minoru Fuji