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Cam Suafoa set for inspiring return with Blues after cancer treatment

By Finn Morton
Cameron Suafoa of the Blues makes a break during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Final match between Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park, on June 09, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks XV forward Cameron Suafoa is set for an incredible return to Super Rugby Pacific this weekend with the Blues after missing large parts of the season to undergo cancer treatment.

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Suafoa, 25, shared a nine-minute video on social media last month which provided an honest insight into the New Zealander’s cancer journey since being diagnosed in November 2023.

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The Blues enforcer started at lock in the round three loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington and flew over to Sydney to play the NSW Waratahs after underdoing treatment earlier that week.

But Suafoa, who completed radiation treatment for a cancerous tumor in his back in early April, is in line for his first Blues appearance since round four after being named to come off the pine against the Melbourne Rebels.

The Blues are coming off a miraculous last-gasp winner against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, and the Aucklanders have stayed in the Sunshine State in the lead-up to their trip down south to Melbourne.

“It’s been good to connect as a group, take stock and get a decent training block under our belt in pleasant conditions here on the Sunshine Coast,” coach Vern Cotter said in a statement.

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“A quick look at the Super Rugby table tells you all you need to know about the Rebels – they’ve won five matches this season and are well entrenched in the top eight.

“I was proud of how we didn’t panic and showed belief in each other against the Reds. We’ll need that same level of composure on Friday night against the Rebels if we want to compete.

“This competition is tough. I few want to maintain our spot near the top of the standings we have to perform on Friday before a run of home matches that will test us all over again.”

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
0
Draws
1
Wins
4
Average Points scored
12
43
First try wins
60%
Home team wins
20%

PJ Sheck has been named to debut for the Blues in a front-row that includes All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi and the ever-reliable Ricky Riccitelli.

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Captain Patrick Tuipulotu will pack down alongside Laghlan McWhannell in the middle row, while Anton Segner, Dalton Papali’i and Hoskins Sotutu are once the loose forwards trio for the Blues.

In the backs, Taufa Funaki and Harry Plummer will continue to develop their halves combination after being named to start once again this week.

AJ Lam and Rieko Ioane are the centre pairing, while Caleb Clarke returns to the starting side on the left wing. All Black Mark Tele’a will wear the No. 14 jersey and Cole Forbes is the Blues’ fullback.

If results go their way, the Blues could leapfrog the Hurricanes into first on the Super Rugby Pacific standings with a win at AAMI Park.

This clash is set to get underway at 9:35 pm (NZT) on Saturday.

Blues to take on Melbourne Rebels

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  2. Ricky Riccitelli
  3. PJ Sheck*
  4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c)
  5. Laghlan McWhannell
  6. Anton Segner
  7. Dalton Papali’i
  8. Hoskins Sotutu
  9. Taufa Funaki
  10. Harry Plummer
  11. Caleb Clarke
  12. AJ Lam
  13. Rieko Ioane
  14. Mark Tele’a
  15. Cole Forbes

Replacements

  1. Kurt Eklund
  2. Joshua Fusitu’a
  3. Marcel Renata
  4. Sam Darry
  5. Cam Suafoa
  6. Sam Nock
  7. Corey Evans
  8. Bryce Heem

*debut

Players not considered: Finlay Christie, Stephen Perofeta, Zarn Sullivan, Rob Rush, Akira Ioane

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Comments

1 Comment
J
Jen 79 days ago

This is awesome news. I hope he goes well.

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finn 8 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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