Super Rugby Preview: Blues v Highlanders

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match Details: Blues v Highlanders, Eden Park, 7.35pm, April 22, 2018

Played: 31
Won: Blues 16, Highlanders 15
Last time: Blues 16-34 Highlanders, Eden Park, April 20, 2018
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen


The Blues have only the one win in the competition to date but took loser's bonus points from their losses to the Crusaders (22-24) and the Jaguares (19-23). They lost away in Durban to the Sharks (7-26) but beat the Sunwolves (28-20) in their last outing. The Highlanders started with two wins, over the Chiefs (30-27) and the Reds (36-31) before losing to the Rebels (19-24) and the Hurricanes (22-25). Their scheduled game with the Crusaders was abandoned last week results in two points for the shared result.

If statistics count for anything the Blues can go into the game with a degree of confidence that they are well placed to pressure the Highlanders. The Blues lead the competition with carries at 145 to 99.4 from the Highlanders. In metres made they are fifth with 423.5 compared to 328 while they have made 8.8 clean breaks compared to 7.6. They have beaten 25.5 defenders to 14.8 and they have 11 offloads to 6.6. Their tackle percentage is 86-83, their tackles 100.3 to 93.2 and their missed tackles are 16.5 compared to 19.6. Of concern to them is their turnovers conceded at 15 to 13.5.


The Highlanders go into the game having opted for six starting line-up changes from the side that was scheduled to play the Crusaders last weekend. Marty Banks will have his first start of the year at first five-eighths. Thomas Umaga-Jensen will play second five-eighths while Tevita Li will be back on the left wing. Having recovered from concussion Tom Franklin and Pari Pari Parkinson will be paired in the locks while flanker Dillon Hunt will start. Coach Aaron Mauger said last week's cancellation had not affected their thinking for selection for this weekend's game and they had stuck with the plan they originally had and had chosen what they feel is the right 23 for the game.


It's been 20 games against New Zealand opposition since the Blues last had a win which was against the Highlanders 33-31, in round one in 2016. They have had one draw and 19 losses.


Having won six of their last seven games against the Blues, the Highlanders have won only two of their last nine games away from home against New Zealand opposition.


Blues: 1.Alex Hodgman, 2.James Parsons, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Josh Goodhue, 6.Tom Robinson, 7.Blake Gibson (captain), 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.TJ Faiane, 14.Tanielu Tele'a, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Leni Apisai, 17.Ofa Tuungafasi, 18.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 19.Patrick Tuipulotu, 20.Dalton Papalii, 21. Augustine Pulu, 22.Orete Black, 23.Levi Aumua/Matt Duffie.

Highlanders: 1.Ayden Johnstone, 2.Liam Coltman, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Pari Pari Parkinson, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Shannon Frizell, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Luke Whitelock (captain), 9.Aaron Smith. 10.Marty Banks, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 13.Patelesio Tomkinson, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Ben Smith (captain).

Substitutes: 16.Ray Niula, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Josh Dickson, 20.Jackson Hemopo, 21.Folau Fakatava, 22.Josh Ioane, 23.Richard Buckman.