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There is little margin for error for the Blues tonight as they host the desperate Bulls in a bid to keep their faint finals hopes alive. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match from 5:35pm AEST.
The Blues have underperformed yet again this season – a truth made more frustrating by the fact that they have been one of the few teams this season to truly challenge reigning premiers the Crusaders.
After failing to beat the Crusaders back in Round 1 because of a missed penalty goal attempt, the Blues yet again pushed the Crusaders all the way last week before succumbing by eight points in a low scoring affair.
Now, with three matches remaining, the Blues will most likely have to win all three games if they wish to sneak into the finals. What makes things more difficult is the fact that they are facing a Bulls team that is also well in the running for a finals birth.
In team news for the Blues, Sonny Bill Williams remains sidelined as the All Blacks centre’s Rugby World Cup selection hopes hang in the balance.
Williams has been out since suffering a knee injury in March and will miss the home game against the Bulls on Friday.
He is now being earmarked for the following week’s clash with the Reds in Brisbane.
Another All Blacks, Dalton Papalii, is still out with concussion as No.8 Akira Ioane makes his 32nd straight start.
The Bulls were well beaten by the Brumbies last week and the heavy travel may impact the South African side here again against a Blues team that has been in New Zealand for the past few weeks.
The Bulls are in a better position than the Blues and every reason to give their all tonight in a match that could seal their place in the finals. The Blues though should be desperate themselves, and after pushing the Crusaders again, expect the hosts to do enough to seal a tight win.
Blues by 10
Melani Nanai, Caleb Clarke, TJ Faiane, Ma’a Nonu, Rieko Ioane, Harry Plummer, Jonathan Ruru, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson (co-c), Tom Robinson, Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu (co-c), Ofa Tuungafasi, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman
Reserves: Leni Apisai, Lua Li, Marcel Renata, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Hoskins Sotutu, Augustine Pulu, Otere Black, Tanielu Tele’a
Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks, Johnny Kotze, Burger Odendaal (c), Rosko Specman, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Paul Schoeman, Hanro Liebenberg, Marco van Staden, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka
Reserves: Jaco Visagie, Simphiwe Matanzima, Wiehahn Herbst, Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Andre Warner, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw
Time: 5:35pm AEST
Venue: Eden Park
Betting: Blues $1.32, Bulls $3.30