Blues coach Pat Lam has resisted the temptation to rush Ma’a Nonu into the match 22 for Friday’s match against the Chiefs.
Nonu returned from a stint in Japanese club rugby last week, and is only likely to be considered for the Blues’ tour to South Africa. Lam has also stuck with Michael Hobbs at flyhalf and Alby Mathewson at scrumhalf, with All Blacks No 9 Piri Weepu still warming the bench.
The only change to the starting side that fronted the Crusaders sees Tevita Mailau coming in for Charlie Faumuina at tighthead prop. Faumuina sustained an injury last week and won’t be risked against the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has been forced to make numerous injury-related changes.
Long term injuries to props Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith sees rookie Ben Tameifuna promoted to the starting line-up. His cousin, Arizona Taumalolo will pack down on the other side of the Chiefs’ front row.
Samoa utility forward Kane Thompson comes in at No 8, Tanerau Latimer starts at openside flank and hooker Mahonri Schwalger is promoted to the run-on side. Asaeli Tikoirotuma is on the left wing in place of the injured Lelia Masaga.
Chiefs – 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger , 1 Arizona Taumalolo.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Shane Cleaver, 18 Fritz Lee, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Declan O’Donnell.
Blues – 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Michael Hobbs, 9 Alby Mathewson; 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tom McCartney.
Subs: 16 Pauliasi Manu, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Brad Mika, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Sherwin Stowers.