Blues lose Braid for South Africa trip

The Blues face the Chiefs in the Super 14 opener this weekend and following that they will fly to South Africa where they will face the Lions, Cheetahs and the Sharks.

They will have to do this without flanker Daniel Braid who is still is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Coach David Nucifora says that he was tempted to put Braid on the plane but resisted as he feels that Braid is just too important to risk.

“We could have taken him over there (South Africa) and tried to push him through in round three or four but he’s too valuable to us to do that so we’re sure he’s going to be ready to go the first game back from Africa which will be a great boost for the side to have him then as well,” Nucifora told Sportal.

This means that Justin Collins will fill the open side jersey against the Chiefs.

“He’s [Collins] been going really well. He’s at the top of his fitness, he may not be quite as fast as some of the younger guys playing that position but again he’s smart and experienced and playing seven is not all about being quick.”

“They’ve ( the Chiefs) been talking about starting the season well for quite a few months now so I’ve listened to Fossie [coach Ian Foster] speak about that on numerous occasions, so there is no doubt they have put a lot of emphasis on this game and we’re ready for that.

“It will just add a little more than what it normally does when we play the Chiefs in the season opener for us and them. We both know how important it is to get off to a good start so I don’t think there’ll be anything held back come 7.30.”

Nucifora isn’t expecting miracles from the start and doesn’t expect the team to be at its best on Saturday.

“That would be unrealistic to say that in your first hit out, but we are in good shape and I would expect nothing less than a good performance and just the occasion will bring that out in the team,” he said.

A stand out addition to the Blues back line is Benson Stanley at second five-eighths who will has been selected with Isaia Toeava and Nick Evans and although Stanley is a newcomer Nucifora says that he is mature eneough to cope with the role.

“I’m sure he is going to do fine We’ve been very careful with our selections with regard to experience in other positions as well. Experience plays a big part in this competition.

“It is a big ask for some people to be able to jump straight up to this level. I think you have got to have a certain type of make up to be able to deal with it.

“And in Ben’s case he hasn’t just left school, he’s 23-24 years of age so as I say he’s a mature young bloke and I know he’s looking forward to Saturday.

“I think he’s quite a worldly young bloke, hence the maturity. He has done a few other things with his life and I think all those sorts of experiences add value to footballers,” he said.

“I believe we’ve tried to cover all scenarios with defence, attack, rugby nous.

“It’s exciting having Nick there at 10, it’s very exciting his combination with Isa [Nacewa] back there at 15. I think we’ve got some good thinkers and we’ve obviously got some good movers out there so we’re hopeful we can get as close to top gear as we can in our first competition game.”

“We’ve approached the halfbacks with the view that 80 minutes will come from both of them and where we can best utilise their skills. Danny [Lee] is a very experienced player, a very good communicator helping us get our team organised in the early part of the game and you’ve seen ‘niela’s [Taniela Moa] strengths, he’s a robust, dangerous runner when teams are a bit more fatigued. We’re hoping that combination best suits us.”

The Blues team is as follows.

1 – Tony Woodcock, 2 – Keven Mealamu, 3 – John Afoa, 4 – Kurtis Haiu, 5 – Troy Flavell (captain), 6 – Jerome Kaino, 7 – Justin Collins, 8 – Nick Williams, 9 – Danny Lee, 10 – Nick Evans, 11

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