Blues want strong finish against finals-bound Chiefs

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Chiefs have secured a spot in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final against the Crusaders next weekend and go into tonight's game against the third-placed Blues at Eden Park with one eye firmly on Christchurch next Saturday.

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has made several changes to his lineup to allow key players to regroup ahead of the final, resting the likes of Damien Mckenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown and Brad Weber. He has also handed debuts to six players: Viliami Taulani and Zane Kapeli who will take on the loose forward roles, while Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Tom Florence, Rivez Reihena and Gideon Wrampling all make the bench. There is also a place for Chiefs legend Liam Messam who answered a call for backup and could play his 180th game for the club this evening. He last played for the Chiefs in 2018.

"We need to ensure that our young team that's going out this week are given every opportunity to put their best foot forwards," McMillan told superrugby.co.nz

The Blues, on the other hand, are already refocusing their attention on the trans-Tasman competition which kicks off in a fortnight's time. However, coach Lean McDonald still wants to end the Aotearoa competition well. 

"We do want to finish this competition off on a good note. Equally, we want to use it as a stepping stone to move into the trans-Tasman competition which will be a stern test," he told superrugby.co.nz.

McDonald has not made too many changes to his lineup. Tom Robinson will captain the side, returning to the blindside with David Papalii out with a knee injury. In the backline, Finlay Christie starts at halfback, Otere Black moves to number 10 and Tanielu Tele’a comes into the midfield. 

Tonight will also see history being made with New Zealand's first-ever Women's Super Rugby match with the Blues women playing the Waitomo Chiefs women. Both teams are stacked with a mix of Black Ferns talent and fresh young faces.

Kick-off for the women's match is at 4:35pm and for the men's game is at 7:05pm. 

Blues: 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe 2. Kurt Eklund 3. Nepo Laulala 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti 5. Sam Darry 6. Tom Robinson © 7. Adrian Choat 8. Hoskins Sotutu 9. Finlay Christie 10. Otere Black 11. Caleb Clarke 12. Tanielu Tele’a 13. Rieko Ioane  14. Bryce Heem 15. Zarn Sullivan* Reserves: 16. Soane Vikena 17. Ofa Tuungafasi 18. Marcel Renata 19. Josh Goodhue 20. Akira Ioane 21. Sam Nock 22. Harry Plummer 23. AJ Lam.

Chiefs: 1. Ollie Norris 2. Bradley Slater 3. Sione Mafileo 4. Samipeni Finai 5. Josh Lord 6. Viliami Taulani* 7. Zane Kapeli* 8. Pita Gus Sowakula 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi 10. Bryn Gatland 11. Shaun Stevenson 12. Rameka Poihipi 13. Sean Wainui 14. Bailyn Sullivan 15. Kaleb Trask Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris 17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth* 18. Joe Apikotoa 19. Liam Messam 20. Tom Florence* 21. Xavier Roe 22. Rivez Reihana* 23. Gideon Wrampling*

* Debut