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PREVIEW: Blues v Waratahs

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND 17: Blues v Waratahs, 7.35pm, Friday 15 July, Eden Park, Auckland

TALE OF THE TAPE
Compared to last season, the Blues have had a much improved 2016 while the Waratahs have struggled to live up to their superstar billing. Despite that, the Waratahs can still make the play offs if they beat the Blues and the Brumbies are tripped up by the Force in Canberra. The Blues will be looking for a strong end to their season and can take confidence in their home record against the Waratahs which reads nine wins from 10 matches. 

QUICK TAP: SUPER RUGBY TRY SCORING RECORD THREAT UNDER THREAT

KING KAINO
Blues blindside flanker Jerome Kaino has been in rampant form since the June break. The veteran loose forward has crossed for four tries in two matches and was instrumental in the Blues 40-15 thumping of the Brumbies last week. Kaino’s strength and experience will be vital in countering the dynamic Michael Hooper in the tight exchanges.
FOLAU FACTOR
Waratahs superstar Israel Folau has been in sensational form in 2016 and will be looking for another dynamic performance to give the Sydney-based side a chance of making the play offs. The electric ball runner leads the Investec Super Rugby try scoring chart with 10 tries and features highly on all of the attacking statistics. Male Sa’u has been solid on defence for the Blues at centre this year but will face his biggest challenge of all when marking Folau.
BLUES THE SPOILERS
Although the Blues cannot avoid a bottom-place finish in the NZ Conference, they have the chance to end the Waratahs playoff hopes. With only the top Australian team going through to the play offs, the Waratahs need victory in Auckland to have any hope of finishing the regular season ahead of current Australian conference leaders the Brumbies. If the Blues can defeat the Waratahs it will complete eight wins in 2016, compared to three wins during the entire 2015 Super Rugby season.

TANA SAYS
“We put things together well at times during last week’s win over the Brumbies but it won’t count for much if we can’t back it up with another good performance. It will be a fierce game because the Waratahs have so much to play for, so if we do not come with the right preparation and right attitude, we will be in trouble.”

TEAMS
Blues: 15: Melani Nanai 14: Matt Duffie 13: Male Sa’u 12: Piers Francis 11: Tevita Li 10: Ihaia West 9: Bryn Hall 8: Steven Luatua 7: Kara Pryor 6: Jerome Kaino 5: Josh Bekhuis 4: Patrick Tupulotu 3: Ofa Tu’ungafasi 2: James Parsons (C) 1: Sam Prattley
Reserves: Matt Moulds, Nic Mayhew, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Scrafton, Blake Gibson, Billy Guyton, George Moala, Lolagi Visinia.

Waratahs: 15: Andrew Kellaway 14: Reece Robinson 13: Israel Folau 12: Rob Horne 11: Matt Carraro 10: Bernard Foley 9: Nick Phipps 8: Dave Dennis 7: Michael Hooper 6: Jack Dempsey 5: Will Skelton 4: Dean Mumm 3: Tom Robertson 2: Tatafu Polota-Nau 1: Paddy Ryan
Reserves: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Angus Ta’avao, Sam Louisi, Wycliff Palu, Matt Lucas, David Horwitz, Jim Stewart