• Blues pick All Blacks front row

    Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock will make their first Vodacom Super Rugby starts of the season for the Blues in Saturday's clash with the Bulls at Loftus.

    After playing 30 minutes off the bench last weekend, the All Blacks centurions have been promoted to the starting XV and will form an all-All Blacks front row alongside Charlie Faumuina.

    The Blues backline remains unchanged, with coach John Kirwan rewarding young guns Simon Hickey and Tevita Li for their impressive performances against the Crusaders.

    Benji Marshall has been omitted from the match 23, with Chris Noakes given the nod as replacement flyhalf due to his tactical kicking smarts, which may well be crucial on the highveld.

    'Benji is obviously disappointed,' said Kirwan. 'We've got a programme for Benji and I've said I'm not going to rush it and it's really important that we slowly bring him into the game. I think what you've probably seen with Israel Folau this year is he's so much better from last year's experience so I think we need to bring Benji into the game slowly but at some stage we need to give him a start and just get him out there.'

    After playing two games against New Zealand opposition this season, Kirwan said the Bulls would pose a completely different challenge and that his team needed to brace themselves for a bruising encounter.

    'The difference when you play Africa is the brutality of the contact, they're big men, they drive sometimes in twos, when they've got the ball they love the physicality of the rucks so they'll fly into them and you just need to be ready for that. They play a very simple game that they know very well – lots of mauling, lots of high kicks and lots of pressure underneath that so we just need to be ready and make sure we can combat that.'

    Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
    Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Chris Noakes, 23 Pita Ahki.

    Bulls team to play Blues

    Photo: Jason Oxenham/Getty Images

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    Simon Borchardt