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Super Rugby Preview: Blues v Chiefs

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Thursday, May 16, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match Details: Blues v Chiefs, Eden Park, Saturday, May 18, 7.35pm

Played: 31
Won: Blues 10, Chiefs 20, Draws 1
Last time: Blues 29-33 Chiefs, FMG Waikato Stadium, April 13, 2019
Referee: Glen Jackson

FORM

The Blues enjoyed a mid-season run of four wins, their only successes to date in the competition and all of them at home against the Sunwolves 28-20, the Highlanders 33-26, the Stormers 24-9 and the Waratahs 32-29. Their first three losses were to the Crusaders 22-24 and the Sharks 7-26a and Jaguares 19-23a. In their last four outings they have lost to the Chiefs 29-33a, the Highlanders 12-24a, the Brumbies 21-26a and the Hurricanes 12-22. The Chiefs have been similar with their first four losses to the Highlanders 27-30, the Brumbies 17-54a, the Sunwolves 15-30 and the Crusaders 28-57a. After their 23-23 draw with the Hurricanes they enjoyed a hat-trick of wins over the Bulls 56-20a, the Jaguares 30-27a and the Blues 33-29. They then lost to the Lions 17-23, the Hurricanes 19-47a and drew with the Highlanders 31-31. In their last outing they beat the Sharks 29-23.
TU'INUKUAFE TO ADD GRUNT

Karl Tu'inukuafe will come off the bench into the tighthead role for the Blues with Alex Hodgman given a start on the loosehead side with Ofa Tuungafasi. Scott Scrafton has his first start of the season after taking his chance off the bench last week at lock while Jonathan Ruru will start at halfback and Caleb Clarke will return to the wing. Coach Leon MacDonald said, "We feel we are really close to achieving the complete performance we've been striving for. This team continues to impress me with their heart and determination. This weekend we probably have a little unfinished business here; I know the boys are pretty motivated after last week, and we definitely have a few things we want to revisit with the Chiefs."

TA'AVAO'S TON

The game represents a personal triumph for Angus Ta'avao, who started his Super Rugby and made 48 appearances for the Blues before transferring away to secure more opportunities. It will be his 100th game with Nepo Laulala to come off the bench. Another change in the middle row sees Jesse Parete and Mitchell Brown paired in the locking role while Pita Gus Sowakula will start on the blindside of the scrum as the result of Luke Jacobson have suffered a head knock at training during the week. The long-awaited return of All Blacks flanker Sam Cane should occur when he comes off the bench. Coach Colin Cooper said given the great rivalry between the sides he expected another brutal encounter and he was looking for his side to build on their effort against the Sharks last week.

THE SCOOP

The only other New Zealand side the Blues have beaten in their last 35 local derbies have been the Highlanders but they go into the game leading the competition for the best scrum success rate.

FAST FACT

The Chiefs are enjoying a 15-game unbeaten run against the Blues with 14 wins and a draw but they go into the game winless in their last four New Zealand derbies away from home.

TEAMS:

Blues: 1.Alex Hodgman, 2.James Parsons, 3.Ofa Tuungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Dalton Papalii, 7.Blake Gibson (captain), 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.TJ Faiane, 14.Caleb Clarke, 15.Melani Nanai.

Substitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Lua Li, 18.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 19.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20.Tom Robinson, 21.Augustine Pulu, 22.Otere Black, 23.Matt Duffie.

Chiefs: 1.Atu Moli, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Jesse Parete, 5.Mitchell Brown, 6.Pita Gus Sowakula, 7.Mitchell Karpik, 8.Tyler Ardron, 9.Brad Weber (captain), 10.Marty McKenzie, 11.Etene Nanai-Seturo, 12.Anton Lienert-Brown, 13.Tumua Manu, 14.Sean Wainui, 15.Solomon Alaimalo.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Polwart, 17.Aidan Ross, 18.Nepo Laulala, 19.Mitchell Jacobson, 20.Sam Cane, 21.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22.Shaun Stevenson, 23.Alex Nankivell.