First-five eighth Stephen Perofeta, who started the side’s last preseason match against the Hurricanes, is unlikely to be available due to a chest/shoulder injury. According to the New Zealand Herald the injury will keep Perofeta sidelined for several weeks.
Fortunately, five eighth Otere Black has shone after a long layoff following a serious knee injury and shapes as the man to likely fill the no 10 shirt against the Crusaders next weekend.
Who will play outside Black remains a mystery. 36-year-old Ma’a Nonu looks a shoo-in after an impressive 60 minute shift at centre against the Hurricanes.
“He scored a really good try, carried hard and was aggressive in defence,” head coach Leon MacDonald said of Nonu. “He was really good actually. It was his first game in a while and he said the pace of the game was a bit different to what he had been experiencing in France, but he loved it.
“He’s a popular member of the team. At 14-0 down, he was probably the calm voice which helped keep the composure in the group; he helped us keep our focus.
Whether Nonu is flanked by TJ Faiane or Sonny Bill Williams remains to be seen, with MacDonald not giving much away.
“Sonny is a quality player and has trained really well and is available for selection,” MacDonald told The New Zealand Herald. “Ma’a’s performance – we haven’t seen him play yet and he played really well. One of the most consistent players in our whole pre-season campaign has been TJ Faiane who is carrying on his good Mitre 10 Cup form. It’s going to be a hot topic, that selection in the midfield.”
“There are some good players who have played good rugby over the last couple of weeks who are going to miss out. That’s always a tough conversation to have but it’s what we want [selection pressure].
“The midfield is obviously a key area. The front row was performed really well in the absence of [All Blacks] Karl [Tu’inukuafe] and Ofa [Tuungafasi] so there are plenty of selection headaches.”
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