Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino return to the Blues’ starting lineup for their away clash against the table topping Lions.
Williams returns after missing one game with a leg injury, while Kaino makes his first start of the season after making an impact from the bench in week three.
Williams forms an All Black partnership with Rieko Ioane in the midfield, and Ioane’s vacant wing spot is awarded to Melani Nanai.
Four-test All Black midfielder George Moala has been dropped from the 23 after starting the first two games at outside centre.
#LIOvBLU | ABs Jerome Kaino and Sonny Bill Williams return to take on the Lions in Johannesburg. SBW will line-up in the midfield with Rieko Ioane who moves in from the wing, allowing the attacking flare of Melani Nanai to remain on the flank. ??https://t.co/j6iG78naGO pic.twitter.com/YcpAdIIKqF
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) March 8, 2018
21-year-old Sam Nock fills in for injured captain Augustine Pulu, linking up with Bryn Gatland in the No 10 jersey.
Promising young five eighth Stephen Perofeta is named on the bench and is primed for a return after suffering a broken hand in preseason.
Hooker James Parsons will lead the side in Pulu’s absence.
Coach Tana Umaga has gone for a six forwards-two backs split on the bench, hoping the strategy will help combat the altitude in Johannesburg.
“The Lions are a formidable team. We well remember our last time here two years ago and we are keen to put that right,” said Blues Coach Tana Umaga.
“They have scored a lot of tries this season off their lineout drive so we have worked hard on this aspect. We need to be disciplined and not give them attacking chances from penalties although at the same time we need to be our usual aggressive selves at the breakdown.”
Swys de Bruin has named an unchanged starting side for his Lions.
He has made three changes to the bench, with loose forwards Kwagga Smith and Hacjivah Dayimani returning to the side along with utility back Ashlon Davids.
De Bruin has also opted for a six-two forwards and back split, with back-up scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren out of the 23.
1. Alex Hodgman, 2. James Parsons (C), 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Antonio Kiri Kiri, 8. Akira Ioane; 9. Sam Nock, 10. Bryn Gatland, 11. Melani Nanai, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Matt Duffie,15. Michael Collins.
Reserves: 16. Ross Wright, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Michael Tamoaieta, 19. Scott Scrafton, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21. Murphy Taramai, 22. Jonathan Ruru, 23. Stephen Perofeta.
1. Jacques van Rooyen, 2. Malcolm Marx, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 4. Andries Ferreira, 5. Marvin Orie, 6. Cyle Brink, 7. Franco Mostert, 8. Warren Whiteley (C), 9. Ross Cronje, 10. Elton Jantjies, 11. Aphiwe Dyantyi, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. Sylvian Mahuza, 15. Andries Coetzee.
Reserves: 16. Robbie Coetzee, 17. Dylan Smith, 18. Jacobus Adriaanse, 19. Lourens Erasmus, 20. Albertus Smith, 21. Ashlon Davids, 22. Harold Vorster, 23. Hacjivah Dayimani.
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