All Blacks contender makes timely Super Rugby Pacific return as Blues rest several Test stars

Colin Newboult
Stephen Perofeta in action for the Blues during the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Stephen Perofeta in action for the Blues during the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Stephen Perofeta is set to make his first appearance since March after being named in the Blues squad for their clash with the Highlanders this weekend.

The fly-half has been out of action since sustaining a shoulder injury, hampering his chances of staking a claim for a place in Scott Robertson’s squad for the July Tests.

Perofeta is being seen as someone who could put pressure on Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett for the All Blacks fly-half role this year following the departure of Richie Mo’unga.

However, his Blues stand-in, Harry Plummer, has impressed in his absence, and the 27-year-old has had to make do with a place on the bench.

All Blacks rested

The Auckland-based outfit have decided to rest a number of internationals following the crucial victory over the Hurricanes which took them to the top of the Super Rugby Pacific table.

Mark Telea, Hoskins Sotutu and skipper Patrick Tuipulotu have all been given the week off, which means AJ Lam shifts to the wing to replace Telea.

Bryce Heem also moves out one – from 12 to 13 – with Corey Evans coming into the XV at inside centre.

Sotutu’s absence allows Akira Ioane to start at number eight as Adrian Choat takes Ioane’s previous slot at blindside flanker.

Dalton Papali’i completes the loose trio and takes over the captaincy with Tuipulotu sitting out their game with the Highlanders on Saturday.

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“It’s going to be fierce against the Highlanders,” Papali’i said.

“We’ve talked about retaining the Gordon Hunter Trophy this week – he’s a man who holds a special place in both team’s histories and we know the Highlanders will be coming up here with fire in the belly looking to snatch it back off us.”

Up front, Marcel Renata continues at prop and will make his 50th appearance for the Blues this weekend.

“I’m stoked for Marcel playing his 50th cap this weekend. He’s a top fella to have around the club and a true Blues man – he even chopped his finger off for the cause!” Papali’i added.

On the bench, there is experience in the form of Angus Ta’avao and Perofeta, but youngsters Mason Tupaea and Kade Banks could make their debuts after being selected in the 23.

Blues team to face the Highlanders

Blues: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 AJ Lam, 13 Bryce Heem, 12 Corey Evans, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papali’i (c), 6 Adrian Choat, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Laghlan McWhannell, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Mason Tupaea, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Josh Beehre, 20 Cameron Suafoa, 21 Taufa Funaki, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Kade Banks

Date: Saturday, May 18
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 07:05 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga (New Zealand), Mike Winter (New Zealand)
TMO: Richard Kelly

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