Renata reaches 50 as Blues eye Gordy Hunter defence

Renata reaches 50 as Blues eye Gordy Hunter defence

The Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy is up for grabs this weekend as the Blues host the Highlanders at 7:05pm on Saturday night at Eden Park in Auckland.

The DHL Super Rugby Pacific match headlines an exciting afternoon of rugby with 1A 1st XV heavyweights, Saint Kentigern College and Mount Albert Grammar squaring off beforehand at 4:20pm on Eden Park.

Tighthead Prop, Marcel Renata, starts for a second consecutive week and will make his 50th appearance for the club when he runs out against the Highlanders. 

First-five Stephen Perofeta makes his return to the Blues bench this week after recovering from a niggly shoulder injury. He’s joined by two potential Blues debutants with prop Mason Tupaea and outside back Kade Banks in line for their first caps.

Openside flanker Dalton Papali’i takes the captain’s armband this week forming part of a reshaped loose-forward trio with Adrian Choat elevated to start and Akira Ioane switching to No. 8.

“It’s going to be fierce against the Highlanders,” Papali’i said.

“We’ve talked about retaining the Gordon Hunter Trophy this week – he’s a man who holds a special place in both team’s histories and we know the Highlanders will be coming up here with fire in the belly looking to snatch it back off us,” he said.

“I’m stoked for Marcel playing his 50th cap this weekend. He’s a top fella to have around the club and a true Blues man – he even chopped his finger off for the cause!” Papali’i quipped.

Hooker Kurt Eklund also gets his chance to start while the young, dynamic locking duo of Laghlan McWhannell and Sam Darry will partner up in the middle of the scrum.

After last week’s late game heroics, Sam Nock will start at halfback  while Corey Evans and Cole Forbes take their place at second five-eight and fullback respectively.  

Highlanders duo, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and Tanielu Tele’a also return to Eden Park having spent several seasons in the Blues jersey.

Papali’i said it will be ‘nice’ to welcome a couple of familiar faces back to Eden Park.

“Both Jacob and Nelu spent plenty of time up here at the Blues, they know us and we know them. We’ll definitely be looking to get the upper hand against them on Saturday and no doubt share a few laughs afterwards,” said Papali’i.  



  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi

  2. Kurt Eklund

  3. Marcel Renata – 50th Blues appearance 

  4. Laghlan McWhannell 

  5. Sam Darry

  6. Adrian Choat

  7. Dalton Papali’i (c) 

  8. Akira Ioane

  9. Sam Nock

  10. Harry Plummer

  11. Caleb Clarke

  12. Corey Evans

  13. Bryce Heem

  14. AJ Lam

  15. Cole Forbes


  16. Soane Vikena

  17. Mason Tupaea*

  18. Angus Ta’avao

  19. Josh Beehre

  20. Cameron Suafoa

  21. Taufa Funaki

  22. Stephen Perofeta

  23. Kade Banks*

*potential Blues debut

Players not considered: Lucas Cashmore (hamstring), Finlay Christie (groin), Joshua Fusitu’a, (concussion protocol),  Rieko Ioane (concussion protocol), Jordan Lay (ankle, season), Hoskins Sotutu (managing workload), Zarn Sullivan (knee), Mark Tele’a (managing workload), Patrick Tuipulotu (managing workload).


Editor’s note: Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy

The Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy is contested between the Blues and Highlanders in regular season DHL Super Rugby Pacific fixtures. The trophy can only be contested for in matches hosted by the holders (such as this weekend at Eden Park). The trophy is awarded in memory of Gordon Hunter, who was Head Coach of both the Blues and Highlanders prior to his tragic passing in 2002.


Saturday 18 May

 Mount Albert Grammar School v Saint Kentigern College

Kick-off 4:20pm (NZT)

Eden Park, Auckland


Blues v Highlanders

Kick-off 7:05pm (NZT)

Eden Park, Auckland

LIVE on Sky Sport, Stan Sport, Gold Sport & iHeart Radio

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