Kirwan makes wholesale changes
Blues head coach John Kirwan has made wholesale changes to his team for Sunday's clash with the Bulls at Eden Park.
Blues head coach John Kirwan has made wholesale changes to his team for Sunday's clash with the Bulls at Eden Park, as he looks to give new players an opportunity to impress.
There are six personnel changes to the starting XV and four to the reserves bench.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Kirwan said.
"If we're going to be successful now and in the future then we need to have a full squad and we need to have internal competition so it was about giving the guys that have worked really hard in the off-season the opportunity to step up."
Tasman prop Tim Perry will make his Super Rugby debut in place of Tom McCartney, while Quentin MacDonald replaces James Parsons at hooker.
Liaki Moli will start ahead of Culum Retallick at lock and Steven Luatua shifts to the back of the scrum to replace Peter Saili as Kane Barrett slots in at blindside flank.
In the backs, Baden Kerr will make his first start in the No.10 jersey in place of Chris Noakes while Taranaki wing Waisake Naholo will make his Super Rugby debut on the left wing.
Ronald Raaymakers, Marty McKenzie and Jamison Gibson-Park are all poised to make their Super Rugby debuts after being named on the bench.
Like the Blues, the Bulls have won their first two games to lead the South African Conference. Kirwan said this was "the biggest test yet" for his team and that the Bulls posed a much different challenge from their previous matches.
"When you play New Zealand franchises you're playing teams with the same philosophy, a philosophy of ‘let's play football and may the best team win' but I think the South Africans pose a different challenge," Kirwan said.
"They are a bit more brutal, they play to their strengths, they bash you up and are very physical and aggressive so we've got to be ready for that."
After a 31,014 strong crowd converged on Eden Park for the Blues' first home game of the season last week, Kirwan said he was hoping for another bumper crowd on Sunday afternoon.
"We were so proud last week at the amount of people who turned up and we hope it's going to be another bumper crowd this week," he said.
"The head office has been working really hard to try and get a Sunday afternoon fixture for us so it can be a family day. We want to earn a fan; we went a long way to doing that last week and we just need to reinforce this week giving people a good time when they come to the Park."
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau,14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Ronald Raaymakers, 19 Brendon O'Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Marty McKenzie, 22 Albert Nikoro.
Date: Sunday, March 10
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 16.05 (05.05 SA time; 03.05 GMT)
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)