Blues Super Rugby head coach Tana Umaga has named All Black Sonny Bill Williams in his starting line up to play the Stormers in Cape Town on Friday.
The match at 5 am on Saturday morning NZ time will see Williams return from injury which will also be a boost for All Black coach Steve Hansen ahead of the upcoming Lions tour.
Williams missed last week’s home match against the Cheetahs with concussion but has been fully cleared to play in South Africa in the match at Newlands
Fellow All Black Ofa Tu’ungafasi gets his second start of the season after his man-of-the-match performance coming on for the injured Pauliasi Manu in the win over the Cheetahs at Eden Park last weekend.
The only other change from the starting line-up that beat the Cheetahs sees Gerard Cowley-Tuioti return to partner fellow in-form lock Scott Scrafton with All Black Patrick Tuipulotu to add real thrust off the bench.
Piers Francis, who came off with injury at halftime last weekend, has recovered sufficiently to be named to start at first-five with Bryn Gatland returning to the squad in the reserves.
Melani Nanai, who has bagged five tries this season, retains his spot at fullback with Michael Collins to come off the bench.
Head Coach Tana Umaga said the team had settled well after the long flight from New Zealand and were looking forward to what he expects will be a tough challenge against the Stormers.
“We knew this back end of the season was full of challenges with our travel schedule. We have planned for it and we do have a number of players coming back from injury for us, and some hopefully ready to be considered back in New Zealand next week,” he said.
“The Stormers at Newlands are a formidable challenge for us. We’ve played well for the last month and need to continue to improve every game as we look to produce an 80-minute performance.”
Players not available because of injury include Jerome Kaino (knee), Pauliasi Manu (calf), Matt Moulds (knee), Ihaia West (ankle) and Jimmy Tupou (hamstring). Stephen Perofeta (ankle) has successfully returned to action and will complete his return to play with a second club game this week.
1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons ©, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 8 Akira Ioane; 9 Augustine Pulu, 10 Piers Francis, 11 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 13. George Moala, 14 Matt Duffie, 15 Melani Nanai.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Michael Collins.