Auckland - Blues coach Tana Umaga has named his team for
their Super Rugby clash against the Sharks at Eden Park on Saturday (kick-off
09:35 SA time).
There are only two changes from the side that lost narrowly
to the Chiefs last weekend.
Lolagi Visinia returns from injury to regain his place at
fullback, with his kicking game considered important for this match, despite
his replacement Melani Nanai starring with a superb solo try.
The major loss is last year’s New Zealand Under-20 star
Blake Gibson, who will be sidelined for much of the Super Rugby season after
injuring his thumb in training this week.
According to the Blues' official website, scans revealed a fracture that may require surgery and will
rule the stand-out flank out of action until after the June international
His replacement will be a first for the Blues with Super
Rugby centurion Tanerau Latimer bracketed at loose forward with Northland’s
If selected, Latimer will make his debut for the Blues after
being sidelined with a long-term calf injury while it would be a first start
for Pryor, who has four Blues caps this year off the bench.
The Blues will make a final decision on Friday after
checking how Latimer comes through Thursday’s sessions, after training fully
with the team since last week.
Counties Manukau back Piers Francis will again start outside
Ihaia West in the midfield, with scans clearing him of any neck and spinal
injury concerns after he was stretchered off early in the game against the
Chiefs as a precautionary measure.
The team will wear black armbands in recognition of the
passing of former Blues lock Kurtis Haiu with a moment’s silence before the
start of the game.
The game is also the anniversary of the original Super 12
final in 1996 when the Auckland Blues beat the Natal Sharks, with a number of
players attending and Joeli Vidiri to deliver the match ball on to the field.
15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Rieko Ioane, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Piers
Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau
Latimer/Kara Pryor, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Hoani Matenga, 3 Charlie
Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Sam Prattley.
Substitutes: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Namatahi Waa, 18 Ofa
Tu’ungafasi, 19 Kara Pryor/Joe Edwards, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22
Matt McGahan, 23 George Moala
15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12.
Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Joe Pietersen, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8.
Philip van der Walt, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Daniel du Preez, 5. Stephan
Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Tendai
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Coenie
Oosthuizen, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Michael Claassens, 22.
Garth April, 23. Odwa Ndunganev