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Blues welcome back All Blacks for Sharks clash

Blues star Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Getty Images

After coming off the bench in the season opener, the Blues welcome three All Blacks into its starting line-up to take on the Sharks in Durban on Sunday (NZ time).

Props Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe join Sonny Bill Williams in the run-on side for the second round of Super Rugby, following their 24-22 loss to defending champions, the Crusaders at home last weekend.

There’s a double celebration with Melani Nanai, starting a fullback, and No 8 Akira Ioane playing in their 50th Super Rugby game for the Blues. Ioane, who also played for the Blues against the Lions, celebrated his 50 games for the club last week.

Tu’inukuafe and Tu’ungafasi make their first start together for the Blues, but both have previously paired up for the All Blacks.

The remainder of the pack is the same that started against the Crusaders, including All Blacks Dalton Papalii and captain Patrick Tuipulotu.

Williams starts in his customary second five position with the in-form TJ Faiane at centre, while Ma’a Nonu is spelled after his first game back in Super Rugby after four years last week.

New Zealand Under-20s winger Caleb Clarke moves to the right wing after a superb pre-season with star All Black Rieko Ioane on the left wing, while the free-running Nanai, impressive against the Crusaders, moves to fullback.

Another New Zealand under-20s player Tanielu Tele’a, a versatile outside back who also impressed in pre-season, is positioned for his debut off the bench.

Coach Leon Macdonald said he is looking for improvements against the Sharks, a dangerous and open-running team. While he was not involved last year, he said many of the team remembers the loss to the South African side at Eden Park last year.


15. Melani Nanai, 14. Caleb Clarke, 13. TJ Faiane, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Otere Black, 9. Jonathan Ruru; 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Dalton Papalii, 6. Tom Robinson, 5. Josh Goodhue, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. James Parsons, 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: 16. Matt Moulds, 17. Alex Hodgman, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20. Matt Matich, 21. Augustine Pulu, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. Tanielu Tele’a.

Rugby World Cup City Guides – Oita:

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Flankly 9 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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