Pat Lam has made a number of changes to the Blues line-up ahead of Saturday’s match against the Bulls, with Josh Blackie starting at flanker as well as several players making either their Blues or Rebel Sport Super 14 debuts.
Earning his second cap for the Blues since making one appearance as a draft player in 2002, Lam said Josh Blackie was raring to go.
“Josh is an experienced player and he’s been at this level many times,” Lam said.
“He certainly looks like a youngster, he’s nervous and excited to go and coming into a team that’s new for him he’s fitted in really well and you can certainly see his experience off the field and he’s looking forward to it.”
The official Blues Website reports that a shuffled backline sees Isaia Toeava starting at fullback with Rene Ranger and Paul Williams on the wings, while Anthony Tuitavake gets an opportunity at centre along with Jamie Helleur.
“The Bulls have a very strong kicking game so to have Paul Williams back there and Ice (Isaia) who’s played full back for the All Blacks… it gives us a lot more strength and allows Anthony (Tuitavake) to have another go at centre where he’s played a lot of rugby before,” Lam said.
Captain Keven Mealamu is being given more time to prove his fitness following a calf strain and has been bracketed with Tom McCartney, and Tevita Mailau will face a baptism of fire against the Bulls front row in his Rebel Sport Super 14 debut after replacing Tony Woodcock at prop.
“It is a great opportunity for us to give Tevita a start along with Kevvie (Mealamu) and John (Afoa),” Lam said.
“Part of the strategy as well is we want to finish strongly with Tony (Woodcock) on the field and with Keven being doubtful and obviously being at altitude it gives us a good chance to finish with at least two All Blacks on the field at the end.”
The Blues squad members who will take the field during the match are:
15 Isaia Toeava
14 Rene Ranger
13 Anthony Tuitavake
12 Jamie Helleur
11 Paul Williams
10 Jimmy Gopperth
9 Chris Smylie
8 Chris Lowrey
7 Josh Blackie
6 Justin Collins
5 Anthony Boric
4 Kurtis Haiu
3 John Afoa
2 Keven Mealamu / Tom McCartney
1 Tevita Mailau
16 Tom McCartney / Francis Smith
17 Tony Woodcock
18 Dean Budd
19 Onosa’i Auva’a
20 Grayson Hart
21 Michael Hobbs
22 Winston Stanley
Unavailable due to injury – Ali Williams, Jay Williams, Benson Stanley, Rudi Wulf
Paternity leave – Joe Rokocoko
Jerome Kaino and Taniela Moa will fly to Pretoria on Saturday to be with the team to watch the match, before flying to Cape Town to resume training ahead of the Stormers game.Tweet