Super Rugby: Blues focus on fitting farewell for Jerome Kaino

Kaino will make his 139th appearance for the Blues on Saturday.
Kaino will make his 139th appearance for the Blues on Saturday. Photo credit: Photosport

The Blues will look to end their disappointing season on a high by sending Jerome Kaino off with a win against the Crusaders on Saturday.

The two-time World Cup winner will make his way to France to join Toulouse after a 138-game tenure with the Auckland-based Super Rugby franchise, which is good enough for second on their all-time list behind Keven Mealamu.

Selection depth has been severely tested with 16 players ruled out of contention, but coach Tana Umaga is preferring to focus on giving Kaino a fitting farewell.

"This game means a lot," said Umaga. "We want to send Jerome off in the best possible fashion.

"We are going into a cauldron in Christchurch, but we have to go with eyes wide open and also take confidence from the game last week.

"We have to do well on both sides of the ball. We had some individual lapses in defence and that’s something we’ve worked on.

"They are a quality side and have been for a long time, but we are excited to get out there, and do our best for us and for Jerome."

The only change from the pack that lost to the Hurricanes on Saturday is a start for Ben Nee-Nee, after an injury to Matiaha Martin, while the backline remains the same.

The 42-24 loss to the Hurricanes was their 11th, leaving the former Super Rugby powerhouses on the verge of equalling their second-worst season record.

The worst was a 3-13 return in 2015, the final season under John Kirwan before Umaga began his unflattering tenure.

The Blues' lone starting change this week is at lock, where Ben Nee-Nee replaces the injured Matiaha Martin.

The Crusaders have made six changes from the team who trumped the Highlanders 45-22.

Only one member of their all-All Black tight five - captain Sam Whitelock - remains while Israel Dagg returns at fullback in just his fourth appearance of an injury-ravaged season.

Crusaders: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Seta Tamanivalu, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-George Bridge, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 9-Mitchell Drummond, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Matt Todd, 6-Jordan Taufua, 5-Sam Whitelock (capt),4-Quinten Strange, 3-Michael Alaalatoa, 2-Andrew Makalio, 1-Tim Perry. 

Reserves: 16-Sam Anderson-Heather, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Donald Brighouse, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Pete Samu, 21-Bryn Hall, 22-Mitchell Hunt, 23-Manasa Mataele.

Blues: 15-Matt Duffie, 14-Melani Nanai, 13-Michael Collins, 12-Rieko Ioane, 11-Caleb Clarke, 10-Stephen Perofeta, 9-Augustine Pulu ©, 8-Akira Ioane, 7-Blake Gibson, 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Ben Nee-Nee, 4-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3-Ofa Tuungafasi, 2-Matt Moulds, 1-Alex Hodgman

Reserves: 16-Ross Wright, 17-Pauliasi Manu, 18-Sione Mafileo, 19-Jacob Pierce, 20-Murphy Taramai, 21-Sam Nock, 22-Bryn Gatland, 23-Tamati Tua.

AAP/Newshub.

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