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The Blues have finally turned a corner tonight, defeating the Stormers 24-9 and in the process, defeating the South African side for the first time in five years, and winning three in a row for the first time in two seasons.
The Blues are beginning to play to their potential in attack and defence and are a force to be reckoned with if they keep improving.
Despite the sending off of Tanielu Tele’a, the Blues didn’t panic and frustrated the Stormers into error. The South Africans had their chances but desperate Blues defence and poor handling and passing cost the away side dearly.
The Blues are coming off a good win over the Highlanders but need to be close to their best if they are to topple the Stormers at Eden Park. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match from 5:35pm AEDT.
Auckland continue to underperform but at least finally managed to defeat a New Zealand team last week in a result that should boost confidence for the rest of the season.
Indeed we shall see what effect such a result had on the Blues lineup when they tackle finals aspirants the Stormers, who are coming off a narrow defeat to the Hurricanes last week.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald has made two changes to his starting team from the one that snapped a derby drought against the Highlanders.
All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu and five-eighth Otere Black are the inclusions with Josh Goodhue and Harry Plummer dropping out.
Sonny Bill Williams, who missed the last round to support the Christchurch shooting victims, is back on the bench with Ma’a Nonu retained at inside centre.
Meanwhile, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has made six changes to his starting line-up.
Damian Willemse comes in at fullback, with Dillyn Leyds shifting to the left wing and Dan du Plessis back at outside centre.
There are two switches up front, with Jaco Coetzee at No 8 and Wilco Louw at tighthead prop, while a fit-again Eben Etzebeth comes into the second row in place of the injured JD Schickerling.
A tight contest awaits here. The Stormers lost narrowly to the Hurricanes and will fancy their chances of stealing a win from the Blues given the Auckland outfit’s recent struggles.
The Blues win over the Highlanders however could just be what was required for the Auckland based side to finally click into gear and mount a finals charge.
Blues by 7
Time: 5:35pm AEDT
Venue: Eden Park
Melani Nanai, Tanielu Tele’a, TJ Faiane, Ma’a Nonu, Rieko Ioane, Otere Black, Jonathan Ruru, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson (co-c), Tom Robinson, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu (co-c), Sione Mafileo, James Parsons, Alex Hodgman
Reserves: Matt Moulds, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Scrafton, Dalton Papalii, Augustine Pulu, Harry Plummer, Sonny Bill Williams
Damian Willemse, Sergeal Petersen, Dan du Plessis, Damian de Allende, Dillyn Leyds, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Herschel Jantjies, Jaco Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Chris van Zyl, Eben Etzebeth, Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff
Reserves: Scarra Ntubeni, Corne Fourie, Frans Malherbe, Cobus Wiese, Juarno Augustus, Justin Phillips, Joshua Stander, SP Marais