Cape Town - Blues coach John Kirwan has dropped flyhalf Chris Noakes for their clash against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday, with 20-year-old Simon Hickey set to make his Super Rugby debut.
Despite a lack of rugby following a neck operation, Noakes has paid the price for his lack of decisiveness in the 29-21 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Hickey, the New Zealand Under-20 playmaker and Auckland ITM Cup player-of-the-year, is in the Blues Wider Training Group but has impressed Kirwan enough to believe he should be given an opportunity to guide the team.
"We think it’s time to give him a chance," Kirwan told the Blues' official website
. "If we want to create internal competition then we need to start that now."
“He’s had the same pathway as (Aaron) Cruden and he’s got the calmness of Foxy (Grant Fox) so I think he’s a mature young man who’s ready for the next step.
"I've got complete faith in him and he's ready. I told him to just get out there, do what you do and enjoy it."
Hickey is joined by a number of youngsters in the starting XV, with Under-20 team-mate Patrick Tuipulotu and 18-year-old wing Tevita Li promoted from the bench to start against the Crusaders.
The Blues have also been bolstered by plenty of experience as veteran All Black centurions Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock are named on the bench.
Sam Prattley replaces Ofa Tu’ungafasi at loosehead prop, while captain Luke Braid who suffered an ankle injury against the Highlanders is bracketed with Brendon O’Connor. A decision on Braid’s fitness will be made later in the week.
With Francis Saili ruled out of action with a foot injury, George Moala shifts into centre as Tevita Li makes his run-on debut on the left wing.
Benji Marshall continues his role on the bench where he is joined by Pita Ahki who is poised to make his Super Rugby debut after overcoming a foot injury.
Kick-off at Eden Park is at 08:35 (SA time) on Friday.Teams:Blues:
15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid/Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Sam Prattley.
Substitutes: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Brendon O'Connor/Jordan Manihera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Benji Marshall, 23 Pita Ahki.Crusaders:
15 Colin Slade, 14 Rob Thompson, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Tim Perry.
Substitutes: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Adam Whitelock, 23 Israel Dagg