Blues name monster midfield to face Lions
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blues have welcomed back a number of All Blacks for their Super Rugby Round Four encounter with the Lions.
Jerome Kaino and Sonny Bill Williams are both back, but the most significant selection is their monster midfield that will go up against the high-flying Lions.
Williams - who returns following a leg injury that sidelined him for a week - will line-up in the midfield with Rieko Ioane who moves in from the wing, allowing the attacking flair of Melani Nanai to remain on the wing.
He currently makes the most metres per carry of any Super player.
Kaino has his first start of the season, after coming on as a reserve last week.
Sam Nock replaces injured skipper Augustine Pulu, pairing up with the in-form Bryn Gatland, while Stephen Perofeta, who played in the development match last weekend after injuring his hand in pre-season, comes on to the bench.
James Parsons takes over as captain for his 80th Super Rugby game for the Blues in the front row with, Alex Hodgman and Ofa Tu'ungafasi, while the former New Zealand Schools and All Blacks Sevens player Antonio Kiri Kiri gets a start at loose forward.
New Zealand Maori representatives Jonathan Ruru and the experienced Taniwha front row forward Ross Wright are included on the bench, where coach Tana Umaga has gone for a six forwards-two backs split.
Players not considered because of injury include Otere Black (knee), Blake Gibson (shoulder), Glenn Preston (calf), Matt Moulds (knee), Dalton Papalii (hand), Augustine Pulu (foot) and Kara Pryor (leg).
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Wright, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Michael Tamoaieta, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21 Murphy Taramai, 22 Jonathan Ruru, 23 Stephen Perofeta.
Date: Saturday, March 10
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17.15 (15.15 GMT; 04.15 NZ Time Sunday, March 11)
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Jaco Pretorius (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)