Super Rugby preview: Blues v Chiefs
Sir John Kirwan has made four changes to his Blues side ahead of their final game of the season against the Chiefs.
Last Updated: 12/07/13 12:38pm
Results elsewhere last weekend mean the Auckland-based franchise enter the final round of fixtures with little to play for but pride after the Cheetahs sealed the last remaining play-off spot.
All Black flanker Steven Luatua is ruled out with a shoulder injury meaning Kane Barrett will start at blindside while Kirwan will make a late call on the number eight berth with Peter Saili battling sickness.
Veteran Keven Mealamu starts at hooker with James Parsons reduced to the bench, while fellow All Black Piri Weepu returns to half-back action following a rib injury.
New Zealand U20s winger Lolagi Visinia will make his Blues bow on the left as Rene Ranger switches back to his preferred role in the centres.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has also made numerous changes as his side enter the clash knowing one point will secure the New Zealand conference title.
Robbie Robinson and Lelia Masaga get the nod on the wings while Tim Nanai-Williams starts at outside centre.
With Robinson switching to the left, Andrew Horrell takes the number 15 jersey as the Chiefs look to bounce back from a 43-15 defeat at the hands of the Crusaders last weekend.
Up front, prop Toby Smith starts while there is a welcome return for Liam Messam at blindside flanker following a spell out with a back injury.
Rennie has also made changes on the bench with Pauliasi Manu, Same Cane, Gareth Anscombe and Asaeli Tikoirotuma all making the travelling party.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili / Brendon O'Connor, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O'Connor / Sean Polwart, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Marty McKenzie.
Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Robbie Robinson, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
What they said...
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan
"It's about pride for us. We've had a season that we expected and I think if we can finish with a great performance then it's been a real step in the right direction to put this franchise back on track.
"We all would have loved to have make the playoffs or been in contention this week; that hasn't happened but we've played some great football and we're heading in the right direction so we need to go out there and play for pride and show people that we are a force to be reckoned with going forward."
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie
"We are obviously pretty disappointed with our performance last week but we are excited about the opportunity to redeem ourselves.
"We know these are traditionally big clashes and know the Blues will want to put in a big performance in their final game of the season."