Cape Town - Blues head coach Tana Umaga has announced that he has appointed scrumhalf Augustine Pulu as the Auckland-based franchise's captain for the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Umaga said Pulu, along with previous captains Jerome Kaino and James Parsons, form part of the Blues' senior leadership group.
"Both James and Jerome are sidelined for some time from surgeries and I wanted our captain to take the reins on the paddock from day one of training," he told the Blues' official website.
"Of course both James and Jerome will continue to play invaluable leadership roles in this team and will be key contributors in all aspects.
"Augie has proven captaincy experience in the Mitre 10 Cup and will add a fresh spark to the team."
Pulu has played 64 games in Super Rugby as well as representing New Zealand in Sevens at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and has two All Black caps.
"It’s an honour to lead a club like the Blues," said the 27-year-old.
"We have a good bunch of guys returning and some exciting new players coming in. With the help of the leadership group, I want to mould them into a strong team.
"I think we have made real progress in my time here and hope I can do my job as a player and as a captain for the Blues.
"We have to work so hard every day, on and off the field. I believe we can win the Super Rugby title - that’s my goal for the team."
The Blues also announced that Ben Afeaki, the former New Zealand Maoris and All Black prop, has been appointed as scrum coach. He has enjoyed that role for North Harbour in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Four young players, all part of the Blues Under-20 set-up and selected for the New Zealand Under-20 training squad, join the Blues for 10 weeks full-time training as part of the Interim Training Contract scheme. They are Rob Cobb, Hoskins Sotutu, Harry Plummer and Tanielu Tele’a.
There are a further nine players who have joined as replacements for injured players or for All Blacks and Maori All Blacks who are staged back into Super Rugby in January. The eight are: Marcel Renata (Auckland), Ross Wright (Northland), Jacob Pierce (Auckland), Antonio Kirikiri (Manawatu), Lewis Gjaltema (North Harbour), Orbyn Leger (Counties Manukau), Sione Havili (Auckland) and Jordan Hyland (Northland).
The Blues began on-field training on Friday and will continue until December 20 before the Christmas break, resuming on January 8.
Blues Super Rugby 2018 squad:
Leni Apisai, Matt Moulds, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Pauliasi Manu, Isaac Salmon, Mike Tamoaieta, Ofa Tuungafasi, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Josh Goodhue, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jimmy Tupou, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Dalton Papalii, Glenn Preston, Kara Pryor, Murphy Taramai
Sam Nock, Augustine Pulu (captain), Jonathan Ruru, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Bryn Gatland, Stephen Perofeta, Otere Black, Matt Johnson, George Moala, Rieko Ioane, Tamati Tua, TJ Faiane, Sonny Bill Williams, Caleb Clarke, Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Melanie Nanai, Jordan Trainor