Super Rugby: Blues v Sharks team news
Last Updated: 23/05/14 1:55pm
Luke Braid: Returns to captain the Blues against conference leaders, the Sharks.
The Blues have welcomed back captain Luke Braid for the must win game against Super Rugby leaders the Sharks on Friday.
Charles Piutau's injury has forced Lolagi Visinia to move to full-back, meaning New Zealand under-20 Tevita Ling will start on the left wing while fellow youngster Pita Ahki will come in at outside centre.
Braid's inclusion ahead of Brendon O'Connor is the only change in the forwards.
"It was really important to make sure we gave Luke time to recover from his shoulder," Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said.
"He's our leader and has been playing out of his skin for us so I think it's really good that he's back and he will give us good direction and leadership.
"Pita is one of our young guys we've been working hard with.
"He's young but with the form of Lolagi it was an easy decision to put him to full-back, and it puts Tevita back onto the wing who was strong for us early. With Pita coming into centre it's a young crew but full of talent, ability and excitement."
This match against the conference leaders is a must win for the Blues if they are to keep their play-off hopes alive.
"They have eight or nine Springboks in the side so they're not at the top of the conference for no reason. I think last week was a pretty awesome effort against the Crusaders, they'd be proud of that, so we're going to have to be on top of our game." Kirwan said.
With Jean Deysel suspended Jacques Botes has been drafted in by Sharks boss Jake White for Friday's clash.
The rest of the team remains unchanged for this crucial game.
The Sharks have something of a psychological hold over the Blues, enjoying a run of eight wins that extends back to their last loss against the Auckland side in 2005.
Blues: 15; Lolagi Visinia,14 Frank Halai, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid (capt), 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Albert Nikoro.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Paul Jordaan, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Heimar Williams.
Super Rugby 2014 Round 15
Western Force scored four tries in a 29-19 victory over the Lions to see them move into the Super Rugby play-offs.
Hurricanes claimed a shock 45-8 victory, including six tries, against defending champions Chiefs in Wellington.
Crusaders moved third in the Super Rugby ladder with a 32-30 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin.