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Former All Black reacts to ‘massive loss’ of Blues' potential Test bolter

By Finn Morton
Blues' Zarn Sullivan (R) looks to pass as he is tackled by Hurricanes' Cam Roigard (L) during the Super Rugby Pacific rugby match between the Wellington Hurricanes and Auckland Blues at Sky Stadium in Wellington on March 9, 2024. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP)

All Blacks centurion Mils Muliaina has tipped the Blues to beat Kiwi rivals the Highlanders this weekend but has highlighted the injury to Zarn Sullivan as a “huge” loss for the ladder leaders.

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Sullivan, 23, returned from a six-week sideline spell against the Hurricanes last Saturday before being carted off the field at Eden Park midway through the first half with another knee injury.

After falling to the ground without any defenders laying a hand on him, the Blues’ medical staff rushed out to attend to the fullback who lay on the grass with a grimace of pain on his face.

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In one of the saddest moments of the weekend, Hurricanes centre Bailyn Sullivan seemed to momentarily ignore the team huddle by walking over to show support for his injured brother.

Sullivan left the field after about 23 minutes, with the Blues later confirming the Maori All Black had suffered a meniscus tear. The playmaker will be sidelined for at least one month.

While the Blues went on to beat the Hurricanes in that top-of-the-table thriller, they’ll look to back that effort up without Sullivan when they take on a somewhat desperate Highlanders side.

“Same leg but obviously something a little bit different,” Muliaina said on Stan Sport’ The Call Up. “That was huge because he took on the responsibility of especially that exit play on the left-hand side with his big left foot which eased a little bit of pressure off Harry Plummer.

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“This is a massive loss but we’ve also seen how Cole Forbes can play when he’s been on.

“It happens and unfortunately in this case for Zarn, he’s had a couple of injuries. He probably would’ve been in the mix for higher honours.

“But I think in the Blues’ case, they’re very comfortable with their squad and the guys that can fill in. They’re managing guys really, really well.

“But they know this Highlanders outfit… this is big between these two sides.”

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
5
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
39
15
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
60%

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Including the forced change at fullback with Cole Forbes receiving a promotion into the No. 15 jumper, Blues coach Vern Cotter has made six changes to the starting side that beat the Canes.

Kurt Eklund, Laghlan McWhannell, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock and Corey Evans have also been named, while the return of first five Stephen Perofeta on the bench is a major talking point.

The Blues will have their work cut out for them as they prepare to take on a Highlanders outfit looking to qualify for the playoffs. They beat the Crusaders but are still no guarantee for finals.

Rising star Cam Millar was sensational last time out with the playmaker scoring 21 points in the first half alone as the Dunedin-based outfit went on to record a crucial three-point victory.

“Cameron Millar gets another opportunity to establish a bit more his relationship with (Folau) Fakatava which I think is crucial,” Muliaina continued.

“One thing that’s going on is that they’ve got a settled side. They’ve come off the Moana game, they’ve got into the Crusaders – a massive win.

“They now know they’ve got a chance to go up to Auckland and beat the city-slickers.”

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