The time for the selection tinkering at the Blues is over, says coach Sir John Kirwan.
After weeks of chopping and changing his side, including swapping backline generals Chris Noakes and Simon Hickey, Kirwan said yesterday that all his players had been given ample opportunity to prove themselves and form would now be the main driver in his selections.
"We've been looking for internal competition and I need to start concentrating on making sure I pick the right guys now," Kirwan said. "I think everyone's had a pretty good crack at it. Obviously we were hoping to have more points in the bank, so now we've got to start saying we've got to pick the best side and really start winning some football games."
With one victory and seven points from four games, Kirwan's selection strategy hasn't been a roaring success. Apart from No 10, Francis Saili (now injured), Jackson Willison, Pita Ahki and George Moala have been tried in the midfield, with Benji Marshall replacing the in-form Charles Piutau in the recent loss to the Lions.
Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino will presumably be first-choice selections providing they come through their bench roles against the Cheetahs at Eden Park on Saturday without injury, but Baden Kerr's availability after recovering from a broken left thumb has muddied the waters at No 10 even further.
Kerr probably would have started ahead of Noakes in the opening loss to the Highlanders, with 20-year-old Hickey playing well against the Crusaders and Bulls before Noakes was given another opportunity against the Lions.
And where Kirwan's latest policy leaves star signing Benji Marshall, who got better as the game wore on against the Lions, is anyone's guess. APNZ