Jerome Kaino will become the second most capped Blues player when he starts in Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Kaino, who heads to France after the season, will play his 138th game for the Blues on Saturday, to go past Tony Woodcock, and sit second on the all-time Blues list behind Keven Mealamu.
The Blues welcome back their two leaders, captain Augustine Pulu, who will start, and stand-in captain James Parsons, who will come off the bench.
Pulu is the only change to the starting line-up from the team that beat the Reds handsomely at Eden Park last week, while Akira Ioane, who this week confirmed his commitment to the club, is the only Blues player to have started in every game to date in 2018.
Coach Tana Umaga said Kaino will again be a key motivating factor for his side.
“Jerome means a lot to this team and achieving the milestone is great for him. The team wants to send him on his way in the best way we can and that is with performance. And if we get a good performance, the results will come.
“We get valuable leadership back in the squad with Augustine and James, which is important in derby games against the likes of the Hurricanes. That said, both Sam Nock and Matt Moulds performed well last week.
“Our attitude around the breakdown was a key for us last week against the Reds, which created some front-foot ball for our backs. Our forwards really dug-in. There are some work-ons around set piece as there always is, but we need that same attitude on attack and defence again.
“I am sure the Hurricanes will be looking at ways to rectify their situation after three losses in a row, but we have nothing to lose. We will go down there and throw everything at them, get some pride and respect back and also make sure we send our High Chief away on a good note.”
The Blues team is:
15. Matt Duffie, 14. Melani Nanai, 13. Michael Collins, 12. Rieko Ioane, 11. Caleb Clarke, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 9. Augustine Pulu ©; 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Blake Gibson, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Matiaha Martin, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. Matt Moulds, 1. Alex Hodgman
Reserves: 16. James Parsons, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Ben Nee-Nee, 20. Murphy Taramai, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23 TJ Faiane.
Not considered because of injury: Otere Black (knee – season), George Moala (chest – season), Matt Johnson (surgery – season), Tamati Tua (hand), Jimmy Tupou (knee – season), Josh Goodhue (concussion), Patrick Tuipulotu (shoulder – season), Glenn Preston (groin, season), Scott Scrafton (knee – season), Sonny Bill Williams (shoulder), Dalton Papalii (hamstring), Terrence Hepetema (back strain), Mike Tamoaieta (knee), Leni Apisai (hamstring), Jordan Trainor (hand), Lyndon Dunshea (shoulder).