Countering the Highlanders' goal of extending the first-half dominance of their last game with the Blues across 80 minutes will be the task for coach Leon MacDonald's side in Super Rugby Pacific rugby in Dunedin on Saturday.

MacDonald said it was a big game for both teams. The Highlanders would be looking forward to playing in front of their home crowd, especially with the student-dominated Zoo in full cry.

The Blues didn't want to lose any momentum from the way they finished their last outing – a 32-20 win over the Highlanders.

"If we get it right mentally, there's no reason why we can't turn up and perform well even given the circumstances [of the Covid environment still impacting sides]," he said.

But he was wary of the Highlanders' threat.

"They're always tough at home, and they've got everything to play for.

"We expect their A-game because that's what they'll bring, and we've got to be ready for that.

"Last year we had good success against the Highlanders at home and then got trounced down there in the next game, so we're pretty clear that we have to bring a different level of game and a better edge. What we did in Albany won't cut it," he said.

First five-eighths Beauden Barrett has had an up-and-down start to the season, but MacDonald said he had worked well this week, and, he was keen to string some games together.



Zarn Sullivan will start at fullback with Stephen Perofeta on the bench. MacDonald explained a wider picture was involved in the selections, especially as they look at three games within a week.

"We can't expect our guys to keep rolling out game after game so Stevie is going to feature throughout the week. He's going to play a lot of minutes in the next eight days, and we're trying to make sure we don't overload any player and he's one of them," he said.

Returning blindside flanker Tom Robinson was under pressure with Taine Plumtree demonstrating his potential with a two-try effort against the Highlanders in their last game.

Plumtree will have opportunities for the side over the next week, he said.

James Tucker will play his second game for the side at lock while former New Zealand Under-20s player Corey Evans is on the bench to cover the midfield. 

"He's an exciting prospect. He's skilful, quite powerful and quick-footed. He's been waiting his turn patiently," he said. 

"We feel we've got the fittest, freshest team available for Saturday night," he said.