Preview: Chiefs v Blues

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Friday, May 9, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Friday, May 8, 2014, 19:35pm (local)

Head to head: Played 21, Chiefs 11, Blues 10

Last time: Chiefs 26-16 Blues (July 13, 2013)

Squad update: The Chiefs have made further changes, resulting in the champions making close to 20 squad alterations in the last two weeks, clearly an attempt to keep a roster fresh that is without several players.

George Moala is the only change to a winning team, coming into the midfield due to injuries to Francis Saili and Jackson Willison. Regular captain Luke Braid will also sit out another week, but other than that this is a roster in good touch.

Form: With just two wins in their last seven matches the Chiefs are not in the sort of touch that would suggest a third straight crown is incoming, even though six bonus points and two draws are allowing the title holders to narrowly lead the New Zealand Conference, however just five wins means that their local rivals are no more than five competition points behind.

The Blues are beginning a surge that has resulted in two victories against Australian opposition, playing an abrasive style which has rattled their opposition. If they can again find the form that saw them post 44 points last week then the Chiefs will be under threat.

Key players: The Chiefs will once again look to rely on their triumvirate of international loose forwards in Liam Messam, Sam Cane and Tanerau Latimer, but one suspects that attack will be the key for the hosts. The new midfield of Tim Nanai-Williams and Bundee Aki might be the point of difference.

The Blues are getting good value out of the likes of Simon Hickey and Pat Tuipulotu, but it is their All Blacks contingent that is shaking up Super Rugby’s foundations. Ma’a Nonu is in sparkling form, while Jerome Kaino continues to muscle his way around the tournament, while an all-Test front row is beginning to warm to the task.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Pauliasi Manu.

Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Pita Ahki.

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