Blues flanker Tom Robinson has retained the captaincy role for his side’s Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Robinson was named as Blues captain for the first time in his career a fortnight ago when he led the Auckland franchise to a 27-17 victory over the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
Following last week’s bye, head coach Leon MacDonald has opted to keep the 26-year-old at the helm of the leadership duties for a match that could prove vital in the Blues’ bid to clinch a home final on May 8.
Trailing the Crusaders by eight points, the second-placed Blues also have a game in hand over the reigning champions and need to beat the inconsistent Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium to keep within touching distance of top spot.
In his bid to do that, MacDonald has chosen to keep consistency in his selection by naming almost the exact same match day squad that defeated the Hurricanes two weeks ago.
The only change to the starting lineup comes at halfback, where Jonathan Ruru comes into the No 9 jersey in place of Sam Nock, who has been omitted from the team entirely.
Finlay Christie will instead be called upon to fill Ruru’s void on the bench, while the only other alteration in the reserves comes in the No 23 jersey, where Bryce Heem has been named ahead of AJ Lam, who made his Super Rugby debut against the Hurricanes.
Having already beaten the Highlanders in a comprehensive performance at Eden Park last month, MacDonald said he is eager for his side to continue that form in Dunedin this weekend.
“We got away from them with probably our best effort so far this season at Eden Park to win the Gordon Hunter Trophy,” he said.
“The Highlanders showed against the Crusaders and again against the Chiefs that they are a formidable side. Given the situation with the competition, we know they are going to throw the kitchen sink at this one and we will need to be on top of our game.
“We know that sometimes teams can be lethargic off a bye but we have trained well and the boys are excited at what is ahead of us.
“Our destiny in this competition is in our own hands. That starts on Friday night where we need to be on our game, sure at set-piece, aggressive but disciplined at collision and for our pack to do the business to allow our backs to exploit opportunities.
“It is going to be a whale of a game and we are looking forward to it.”
Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm NZT.
Blues team to face Highlanders
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe
2. Luteru Tolai
3. Ofa Tuungafasi
4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
5. Sam Darry
6. Tom Robinson (c)
7. Dalton Papalii
8. Hoskins Sotutu
9. Jonathan Ruru
10. Otere Black
11. Caleb Clarke
12. TJ Faiane
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Mark Telea
15. Stephen Perofeta
16. Leni Apisai
17. Alex Hodgman
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Josh Goodhue
20. Akira Ioane
21. Finlay Christie
22. Harry Plummer
23. Bryce Heem
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now