PREVIEW: Blues v Cheetahs

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Thursday, May 11, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 12: Blues v Cheetahs, Friday May 12, 7.35pm, Eden Park, Auckland.

Results in games between the two sides in the last five outings have gone with the home team with the last clash being a 25-24 win to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. But in their 2017 campaigns the Blues come into the game with consecutive wins away in Australia over the Brumbies (18-12) and the Waratahs (40-33) but after two earlier bonus point losses to the Highlanders (20-26) and the Hurricanes (24-28). In their last four games the Cheetahs have lost to three New Zealand teams at home: the Chiefs (27-41), the Crusaders (21-48) and the Highlanders (41-45), and the Bulls away (14-20). In each case they suffered the disappointment of being run down in the latter stages.

The Blues, by necessity, have had to alter the side that was pretty much together for both games in Australia. Sonny Bill Williams was ruled out by concussion and TJ Faiane gets a rare chance to start at second five-eighths. Lock Patrick Tuipulotu is back after recovering from a back injury which has seen Gerard Cowley-Tuioti given a breather to come on from the bench. Making his debut after an extended period on the bench is Declan O'Donnell. His form on the wing was impressive in pre-season play and has seen Matt Duffie given a break. Melani Nanai who had been impressive off the bench in recent weeks will start at fullback with Michael Collins on the bench. Should Alex Hodgman get a chance from the bench it will be his debut game while flanker Kara Pryor is set to play his first game of the year. First five-eighths Ihaia West is also back from an ankle strain while Sam Nock has been named halfback substitute.

Having to not only cope with the long-haul flight from South Africa, the Cheetahs have also to get over the disappointment they suffered when run down in the last seven minutes by the Highlanders to lose last weekend. In their selection prop Ox Nche has been moved to the bench with Charles Marais to start. Flanker Paul Schoeman is injured and is replaced by Niell Jordaan while Clinton Swart has been named on the bench. Hanging over the side is their future in rugby with still no announcement on which sides will be absent next year, while the June international series is drawing close and that will involve coach Franco Smith, who has been appointed the Springboks attack coach.


Blues: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.James Parsons, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Steven Luatua, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Piers Francis, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.TJ Faiane, 13. George Moala, 14.Declan O'Connell, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Hame Faiva, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20.Kara Pryor, 21.Sam Nock, 22.Ihaia West, 23.Michael Collins.

Cheetahs: 1.Charles Marais, 2.Torsten van Jaarsveld, 3.Tom Botha, 4.Carl Wegner, 5.Francois Uys, 6.Niell Jordaan, 7.Oupa Mohoje, 8.Henco Venter, 9.Tian Meyer, 10.Fred Zeilinga, 11.Raymond Rhule, 12.William Small-Smith, 13.Francois Venter (captain), 14.Sergeal Petersen, 15.Clayton Blommetjies.

Reserves: 16.Elandré Huggett, 17.Ox Nche, 18.Johan Coetzee, 19.Armandt Koster, 20.Uzair Cassiem, 21.Shaun Venter, 22.Niel Marais, 23.Clinton Swart.