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Blues expecting tougher test in Durban

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Lynn McConnell     22 Feb 2019     Getty Images

Blues coach Leon MacDonald said the changes made to the team had been primarily in the backs with the forwards being pretty settled apart from the front row where Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuluage were starting after coming off the bench well against the Crusaders last week.
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With the All Blacks having been absorbed back into the side there was a little more settled look to their return and part of the changes they had planned.

Midfield back Sonny Bill Williams had come off the bench last week and starting him on week two was part of the process.

There had been a reshuffle in the midfield. TJ Faiane had been consistent and had the skill set they were looking for against the Sharks and he was probably more suited to centre than Williams or Ma'a Nonu and his distribution skills and communication made him a good fit there.

Wing Caleb Clarke had been a standout for the Blues in preseason and he had been unlucky not to make the team against the Crusaders and MacDonald said they felt with his pace and power they wanted to give him an opportunity against the Sharks.

Melani Nanai's placement at fullback ahead of Michael Collins was probably best described as rewarding him for his play last weekend, and MacDonald highlighted the crucial tackle he made on the flying George Bridge as being 'unreal'. It was still early in the season, and they were on tour, which was a good time to look at options.

MacDonald said their study of the Sharks effort against the Sunwolves at the weekend had shown they had a big scrum, a big maul and they were physical ball carriers and with lots of speed out wide while they were full of confidence after winning the Currie Cup.

"It's going to be a big night in the office for us, a tough game and we've got to be right on our game.

"If we thought the game against the Crusaders was physical this one is probably going to be even more so. Getting our minds and bodies right for this one is critical," he said.

"There's a lot of areas we could be better at and we've worked really hard this week, the guys have responded really well and taken on board all the learnings and have a real attitude to be better," he said.



While not going through all the aspects involved he said he was excited about the Blues growing their game and Saturday was another opportunity to go out and put in another performance they could be proud of.

However, he did say the line breaks effected by Crusaders centre Braydon Ennor had come down to individual mistakes and they would be looking to try and limit them and give the players concerned clarity in their roles on defence.

Part of it was down to the limited time returning All Blacks had to get used to the system and he said in one Williams had acknowledged his mistake immediately and MacDonald was hopeful they wouldn't happen again.

Captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu was happy with how the side had settled in after their travel and they were looking at working some subtle variations this week against the Sharks, and that was something he was looking forward to.

Tuipulotu said new blindside flanker Tom Robinson, who made such an impression on debut last week, was a 'pretty special player' who he had known for some time and to see him get a start after a fine pre-season was good.

"He was pretty impressive, had an impressive work rate and he's a fit young man and loves to throw his body around, and likes to get into it as well. You don't have many of those," he said.