Pat Lam, the Auckland Blues coach, has urged his players not to be complacent ahead of their match against the bottom-placed Bloemfontein Cheetahs. The South African franchise are yet to win a match this season and are coming close to the end of a gruelling six-week road trip to Australia and New Zealand. But they showed in their previous match against the Hurricanes that they are capable of causing teams problems, particularly at the line-out where they stole 11 against the throw against their opponents last weekend.
"It's important that we impose our game on them because they showed against the Hurricanes they could provide trouble and we can't afford to make mistakes against them," said Lam. "Mentally we have got to be right. We need to learn that we need our A-game every time we got out ato play." Injuries have forced Lam to make changes to his team from last week. Openside flanker Josh Blackie is facing at least four weeks on the sidelines after spraining his ankle in last week's 35-31 loss to the Sharks and Justin Collins, who was rested last week after three tough matches on the trot, returns in the loose forwards.
Back from injury is winger Rene Ranger, whose recovery from eye socket damage is timely with Paul Williams out injured after pulling a thigh muscle during the warm-up for the Sharks match. Michael Hobbs has been rewarded for impressive performances off the bench with his first start in a Blues jersey. He slots in alongside Anthony Tuitavake in the midfield. Still on the injured list are Rudi Wulf, Benson Stanley, Tasesa Lavea and Anthony Boric.
Naka Drotske has again rung the changes to his Cheetahs team for the match at North Harbour. The coach of the Bloemfontein franchise, who made 10 changes for last Saturday's 29-12 defeat by the Hurricanes, has made six this time around, with the biggest surprise coming at fly-half, where Meyer Bosman has been shifted at the expense of Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Bosman will now play at inside centre in the one positional change, while the other alterations see Danwel Demas, Corne Uys, Tewis de Bruyn, Adriaan Strauss and Nico Breedt all come in in place of Fabian Juries, Piet van Zyl, Sarel Pretorius, Richardt Strauss and Flip van der Merwe.
The Cape Town Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus has dropped Tonderai Chavhanga to the bench in one of three changes to his starting XV for their Super 14 clash against the Johannesburg Lions on Saturday. There is also one positional change with Nick Koster switching from the left wing to the right at the expense of the South Africa winger, who has been replaced by Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki.
Adriaan Fondse comes into the team, along with Schalk Burger, while AJ Venter and Francois Louw drop to the bench. Springbok full-back Conrad Jantjes is still out injured, meaning veteran Percy Montgomery will again deputise in his place. The Stormers have only one win from their opening four games and Erasmus is confident their luck will soon change. He said: "All four of our games were within seven points. We just can't seem to put that final nail in.
"We'll have to work on that." * PA