Blues fullback Charles Piutau will be looking to stake his claim for the All Blacks No 15 jersey when the Blues face the Chiefs in New Plymouth on Friday.
He has been in irresistable form for the Auckland-based franchise this year, combining with Frank Halai and Lolagi Visinia to form a back-three as dangerous as any in this season's competition. He remains the only player to have played every minute for the Blues this season, and he leads his nearest contenders for the All Blacks spot, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg, in metres run, defenders beaten and number of carries.
The Blues have been unstoppable at Eden Park so far this season, but are yet to win on the road. The Chiefs claimed victories both home and away last season and are currently on a five-match unbeaten run against this weekend's opponents.
You'll have to go back to 2011 for the last time the Blues got the better of the two-times champions, a narrow 16-13 win in Hamilton. It's been a lean period since, though, as they've watched the Chiefs go from strength to strength, while they have stumbled from one coach to the next.
The Blues have made just one change for the match, with George Moala starting at outside centre after both Francis Saili and Jackson Willison suffered long-term injuries.
Meanwhile, their opponents have made three changes as injuries continue to plague their season. Ross Filipo and Charlie Ngatai both miss out through injury, and are replaced by Mike Fitzgerald and Bundee Aki respectively. Aki will start at inside centre, with Tim Nanai-Williams shifting yet again, this time to outside centre. In the other change, Ben Tameifuna makes a welcome return at tighthead prop.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Chiefs 11, Blues 10
In Hamilton: Chiefs 5, Blues 5
PIUTAU'S STATS THAT MATTER
762 – Number of metres run (Rank 2)
36 – Number of defenders beaten (Rank 2)
123 – Number of carries (Rank 2)
Source: Vodacom Stats App
Chiefs – 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Pratley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Pita Ahki, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Piri Weepu.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images