A strong showing off the bench last week has earned All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu a start for the Blues in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash with the Stormers at Eden Park.
Tuipulotu, who announced he is returning for the Blues and New Zealand Rugby next year, is one of only two changes to the Blues team that beat the Highlanders at home last week.
In the backs, Otere Black will start with Harry Plummer to come off the bench.
The in-form props Alex Hodgman and Sione Mafileo will start together for the third time which means All Blacks Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi will again look to make a significant impact off the bench in the second half.
The loose forward combination of Blake Gibson, who shares the captaincy with Tuipulotu, Tom Robinson and Akira Ioane combine for the third time in the starting line-up, with All Black Dalton Papalii, who this week has re-signed for a further three years, will add impetus off the bench.
The midfield duo of Ma’a Nonu and TJ Faiane are paired again, with Sonny Bill Williams, back after a week off, on the reserves’ bench.
“There’s good competition for places in the team and that is creating some quality efforts at training which is what we want,” said Blues head coach Leon MacDonald.
“It also gives us some energy off the bench which is important in these games.
“This is another opportunity for us at home. The win last week has added to our confidence and we want to play well at Eden Park in front of our fans. That win won’t mean much unless we can continue to improve our performances with every game.
“The Stormers are going to bring a very different challenge than the Highlanders and we must be better if we are to get a positive result.”
The Blues have played the Stormers 19 times in Super rugby and the Blues have won 9 matches and lost 10.
Those 9 Super rugby victories give the Blues a record of winning 47% of their matches against the Stormers – regardless of venue.
This weekend the match will be played in Auckland where the teams have met
Average score: Blues 26 Stormers 25
Last five results
Sat, 17 Mar 2018 Blues 20-37 Stormers @Cape Town
Fri, 19 May 2017 Blues 22-30 Stormers @Cape Town
Sat, 21 Feb 2015 Blues 16-27 Stormers @Cape Town
Fri, 03 May 2013 Blues 18-17 Stormers @Albany
Fri, 16 Mar 2012 Blues 17-27 Stormers @Cape Town
Blues overall record against the Stormers
Played 19, Wins 9, Losses 10 , Draws 0
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (cc), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (cc), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Sonny Bill Williams
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 SP Marais.
Match Officials and details
Date : Saturday 30 March
Venue : Eden Park, Auckland
Kick Off local: 19:45
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 1:Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 2:Federico Anselmi
TMO :Ben Skeen