The Auckland Blues are at home to a red hot Wellington Hurricanes team at Eden Park on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes come into the game fresh from a 30-19 thumping of the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend in which fullback Jordie Barrett scored a record 30 points, while the Blues are nursing back-to-back losses to the Crusaders (27-43) and Chiefs (15-12).
Despite their recent dip in form, the Blues go into the game as firm favourites. The Auckland side are second on the Super Rugby Aotearoa table and the Hurricanes are bottom.
The Canes were soundly beaten by the Blues (16-31) at the Cake Tin in round one and will need to be wary of the Blues forward pack. For a team that has attacking flair to burn with the likes of Rieko Ioane, Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea, it is the Blues forwards that have done the damage across the park. Nine of the Blues 15 tries have been scored by their forwards, according to superrugby.co.nz.
The Hurricanes win over the Highlanders has filled the team with confidence heading into the game in Auckland, coach Jason Holland told the Hurricanes media team.
“We have felt all the way through we have been doing a lot of positive things, it was just about taking out a few of the things that were costing us picking up points and wins," said Holland.
“We have plenty to play for and we will go to Auckland with plenty of belief.”
The Blues are keen to get back on track after their disappointing recent results.
“We started the season well but lacked precision over the last two games and last week’s game was disappointing. That has led to some changes this week as players who have done the mahi at training get their opportunity, Blues coach Leon MacDonald told his media team.
Kick off is at 7:05pm at Eden Park, Auckland.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson (c), 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam.
Hurricanes: 1. Fraser Armstrong 2. Dane Coles 3. Tyrel Lomax 4. James Blackwell 5. Scott Scrafton 6. Reed Prinsep 7. Du’Plessis Kirifi 8. Ardie Savea © 9. Luke Campbell 10. Orbyn Leger 11. Salesi Rayasi 12. Ngani Laumape 13. Billy Proctor 14. Julian Savea 15. Jordie Barrett. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Xavier Numia, Tevita Mafileo, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders, Jonathan Taumateine, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Wes Goosen