The first match in Round 17 or the final round of the regular Super Rugby season is in Auckland where the Blues host the Waratahs.
The Blues are out of contention for the play offs this season but since returning from the June break they have been playing like a team worthy of making the play offs.
The Waratahs are still in contention for the play offs but a loss this week will immediately rule them out and make the Brumbies the Australian Conference winners.
The Waratahs can delay the Brumbies Conference victory with a bonus point or even a bonus point victory but the victory will have to be a big one as the Brumbies have been heavily tipped to beat the Force in Canberra on Saturday.
The Blues have played the Waratahs 20 times and they have won 12 matches or 60% of the matches. In Auckland the teams have met 9 times and the Blues have won 8 matches and lost 1.
The average score when the Blues host the Waratahs in Auckland is : Blues 32 Waratahs 20.
Auckland is not a happy hunting ground for Australian teams as since 2010 there have only been two Australian wins in the city. The last Australian win in Auckland was in 2013 when the Brumbies beat the Blues.
For this match Blues coach Tana Umaga has retained his starting line up for the third straight week. They will again be led by captain James Parsons sharing the front row with All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi, with the pair among six Blues players who have played in every game this season.
Outstanding loose forward Steven Luatua joins winger Tevita Li as the only players to have started in every game this season, with the inside pairing of Bryn Hall and Ihaia West also set to play in every game, either starting or off the bench.
All Blacks Charlie Faumuina and George Moala have made progress with their recovery from injury but both have been bracketed on the bench.
The Waratahs have made four changes to the side that lost to the Hurricanes. Jack Dempsey has been named to start at number six and as a result Dean Mumm shifts to the second row.
Club Captain, Dave Dennis will play in the number eight jersey while speedster, Reece Robinson moves into the starting right wing position, in place of Taqele Naiyaravoro who is serving a one week suspension.
Wycliff Palu is on the replacements bench, while Jim Stewart will have the chance to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench.
The Waratahs appeared to find form before the June break but they have not returned from the break with the same level of intensity while the opposite can be said about the Blues who have played their best rugby – arguably in a number of years – since the June break. The pressure is off the Blues and they will have home advantage.
The Bookies have given the Waratahs a 2 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to $200 in Bonus bets. All of the pressure is on the Waratahs who were disappointing last week at home. The Blues should win this by three.
This Match will be shown on TV in NZ (Sky), Aus (Fox Sports), SA (SuperSport) and in the UK on Sky Sports 5.
Average score: Blues 27 Waratahs 24
Last five results
28 Mar 2015 Blues v Waratahs 11-23 Sydney
25 Apr 2014 Blues v Waratahs 21-13 Auckland
24 Mar 2013 Blues v Waratahs 27-30 Sydney
24 Jun 2011 Elim Blues v Waratahs 26-13 Auckland
16 Apr 2011 Blues v Waratahs 31-17 Auckland
Blues overall record against the Waratahs
Played 20, Wins 12 , Losses 8, Draws 0
Match No.127:Blues v Waratahs
Date : Friday 15 July 2016
Venue : Eden Park, Auckland
Kick Off local: 19:35 local
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1:Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO : Ben Skeen
Sam Prattley, James Parsons ( C ), Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis, Jerome Kaino, Kara Pryor, Steven Luatua; Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, Piers Francis, Male Sa’u, Matt Duffie, Melani Nanai.
Replacements: Matt Moulds, Nic Mayhew, Sione Mafileo or Charlie Faumuina, Scott Scrafton, Blake Gibson, Billy Guyton, Matt Vaega or George Moala, Lolagi Visinia.
1. Paddy Ryan , 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau , 3. Tom Robertson , 4. Dean Mumm , 5. Will Skelton , 6. Jack Dempsey , 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Dave Dennis (VC), 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Bernard Foley , 11. Matt Carraro , 12. Rob Horne , 13. Israel Folau,
14. Reece Robinson , 15. Andrew Kellaway ,
Replacements : 16. Hugh Roach , 17. Jeremy Tilse , 18. Angus Ta’avao , 19. Sam Lousi , 20. Wycliff Palu , 21. Matt Lucas , 22. David Horwitz , 23. Jim Stewart