The return of Blake Gibson will bolster the Blues for their Super Rugby contest with the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
Gibson hasn't played since suffering a knee laceration in the win over the Waratahs in Sydney, and should provide a welcome dose of power and leadership among the forwards.
His inclusion is one of seven changes to the side that lost to the Highlanders, with coach Leon MacDonald stacking his bench to take advantage of the travel-weary Australians.
Regular skipper Patrick Tuipulotu moves to the pine, along with James Parsons, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Dalton Papali'i and Augustine Pulu.
In the backs, Riko Ioane's All Blacks-enforced rest week has seen a few adjustments. Matt Duffie replaces Ioane, with Caleb Clarke switching wings.
Sam Nock starts in place of a resting Jonathan Ruru at halfback.
Nursing a hand injury, Akira Ioane will need to pass a fitness test at Friday's captain's run before he's cleared to start.
"We have a number of players back from injury, and others who have been performing well on the training field or with their minutes as replacements, who have earned their chance," said MacDonald.
"We did well earlier in the season with some real ammunition off the bench to add significant energy in the final quarter and we feel we have that capability with this team."
Assistant coach Tom Coventry stressed how crucial a win would be in recapturing some of the momentum lost in their previous two New Zealand derby losses.
"We were pretty disappointed in both our performances before the bye," said Coventry.
"They were close, but we were disappointed with the way we turned up for both games and the results reflected how well we played.
"It's an important time. We get an opportunity to fix up our issues we had over the last two games."
The Brumbies are on a brutal travel stretch that's seen them go from Capetown to Buenos Aires and back in consecutive weeks. They'll also be without lynchpin loose forward David Pocock, who's still recovering from a calf injury.
"We get an opportunity to fix up our issues we had over the last two games," said Coventy. "The Brumbies won't be easy, coming back from the Jaguares, where they had most of the possession, but just couldn't finish it off.
"They've got a pretty grunty forward pack - and if they'd won away against the Jaguares, they would have gone top of their conference.
"They're pretty hard to stop close to the line with the drive, they've got a good scrum and are pretty accurate with the ball. We're certainly not underestimating how tough they'll be at home."
Blues: 1-Alex Hodgman, 2-Leni Apisai, 3-Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4-Gerard Cowley Tuioti, 5-Josh Goodhue, 6-Tom Robinson, 7-Blake Gibson, 8-Akira Ioane, 9-Sam Nock, 10-tere Black, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 13-TJ Faiane, 14-Matt Duffie, 15-Melani Nanai
Reserves: 16-James Parsons, 17-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18-Marcel Renata, 19-Patrick Tuipulotu, 20-Dalton Papalii, 21-Augustine Pulu, 22-Harry Plummer, 23-Levi Aumua
Join us for live updates of Brumbies v Blues from 9:45pm Saturday.