The Blues and Chiefs clash in Albany this weekend in a game that is headlined by the return of Sonny Bill Williams to the Chiefs team, as they aim to take home their third title in four years.
Williams’ return is bound to put a spring in the step of the Waikato side, however; three of their most notable All Black stars in Cruden, Messam and Retallick will watch from the sidelines as they sit out the clash as a form of ‘management’ before the upcoming world cup.
Blues coach John Kirwan remains positive in light of the recent defeat to the Chiefs, saying that it was a useful venture to get an idea of how his team is performing. He’ll hope the lessons learnt and home ground advantage (they have a good home record against other New Zealand sides) are enough to reverse the result when it matters most.
After the clash, the Blues head to South Africa for a two match tour and, bearing that in mind, the opening match at home is an important one to get their season off the ground.
Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 George Moala/Hamish Northcott, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (captain), 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacments: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Hamish Northcott/Ben Lam.
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Johan Bardoul, 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacments: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Bryce Heem.
2014: Chiefs won 11-8, Auckland
2014: Chiefs won 32-20, Hamilton
2013: Chiefs won 26-16, Auckland
2013: Chiefs won 23-16, Mount Maunganui
2012: Chiefs won 41-34, Auckland
2012: Chiefs won 29-14, Hamilton
Follow live commentary here