Midfield will again be the focus for the Blues when they take on the Highlanders in Super Rugby Pacific at Albany Stadium on Friday, but not for the reasons in their earlier games.
News that major investment Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will not be out of action for as long as first feared, with an injured shoulder, was tempered by the need to call Bryce Heem in as their replacement.
Heem played all his game for the Blues on the wing last season.
However, Blues defence coach Craig McGrath said there were no issues with Heem moving to second five-eighths. The midfield was the position he was to take when joining the side last year after Argentine centre Santiago Chocobares could not take up a contract due to Covid-19.
Heem played in the midfield during his stint in Europe, and the coaching group was confident he could do a good job for the Blues.
Having Beauden Barrett starting inside him would ease some of the pressure on Heem.
"He's our vice-captain, our leader, and he breaks a calm head to the group," McGrath said.
There was relief that Tuivasa-Sheck would return in a few weeks.
"It's not as bad as initially thought, so that's pleasing. Roger is just starting to find his feet. People forget that, yes, he has been a professional athlete for a long time but that was his second game of rugby at the weekend, and he's getting better each week. The injury is going to slow that process down for him and his development," McGrath said.
How long his recovery will be should be known after the weekend.
But first five-eighths Harry Plummer was not so fortunate, and he will require surgery on his shoulder and is out for the season.
"It's really disappointing for both those players, especially Harry with it being season-ending," he said.
With flanker Tom Robinson battling an ankle injury Taine Plumtree will make his first start.
"Taine has been nipping at the heels of everyone. He's an athlete, that's for sure. He's a big body, he's an athletic player and he's been rewarded for his preseason form, so we're looking forward to seeing him go," he said.
Robinson was 'pretty devastated' by some poor decisions in the latter stages of the 24-22 win over the Chiefs at the weekend. Two penalties he conceded could have contributed to the Blues' loss if a penalty goal chance had landed.
"His takeaways are that he's got to be better in that space and disciplined. Because at this level, if you are not disciplined across the board, on and off the ball, those moments will stack up and generally create points.
"That put some pressure on us, but we probably could have played a lot better and put that game to bed earlier," he said.
Sam Darry will start at lock after coming off the bench in the first two games. McGrath rated him a smart operator around lineouts.
"He's done some good things for us off the bench and we're looking forward to him starting alongside the old bull Luke Romano, he'll learn plenty off him," he said.
Also making their first appearances of the season, off the bench, are hooker Soane Vikena, lock James Tucker and mid-fielder Tanielu Tele'a.
McGrath said the Blues, with their short turnaround, had been concentrating on their game and the winning of moments.
"The key thing for us is stacking up moments. If you can get three, four or five of those in a row you generally end up with points. And, if you flip it over, if you have three or four bad moments you end up conceding points," he said.
Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy on the line this Friday pic.twitter.com/sTuJ3kEE3P— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) March 8, 2022