Blues captain Jerome Kaino will miss his team's first match of the season - against the champion Highlanders at Eden Park - after being given a one-week's ban for his punch on Chiefs prop Pauliasi Manu.
Kaino caught Manu with an swinging right hand to the right eye in the pre-season match at Pukekohe on Friday as he attempted to free himself from a maul. The incident occurred 10 minutes into the second half of the match at EcoLight Stadium, with Kaino given a straight red card. Despite playing the rest of the match with 14 men, the Blues put on an extremely impressive performance to win 24-12.
Kaino protested his innocence but his apologies were given short shrift by the match officials and his ban, which is yet to be officially announced, was handed down by New Zealand Rugby.
The Blues, who won all three of their pre-season matches under new coach Tana Umaga, host the Highlanders next Friday night.
The loss of experienced leader Kaino is a blow for Umaga and his men, but they are fortunate to have depth in the loose forwards, with Steven Luatua, Akira Ioane and Joe Edwards all capable of playing in his No6 jersey.