The Blues will have a strong Northland presence as they look to return to form against the Sharks at Eden Park tonight.

They face their third South African team in as many weeks after a comeback win over the Lions and a disappointing loss to the Stormers during their tour of the Republic.

Northland lock Josh Goodhue returns from injury to make his first start and second appearance for the Blues, partnering All Black Patrick Tuipulotu in the second row.

Goodhue made his debut last season against the Hurricanes and has earned a starting spot after some impressive performances for the Blues Development side.


He replaces the injured Scott Scrafton.

Coach Tana Umaga said injuries and form have allowed different players to have an opportunity to impress at home.

"Injuries have cost us some players but we have others coming back.

"We have some players who have been working really hard in training and for the Development team that have put their hands up and deserve an opportunity.

"We are looking forward to getting back on home territory at Eden Park and keen to produce a strong performance for our fans."

Meanwhile a trio of Northlanders are in line to make an impact as replacements.

Frontrower Ross Wright, loose forward Kara Pryor and halfback Sam Nock will start on the bench. This will be Pryor's first Super match of 2018 after recovering from an ankle injury.

The fractured wrist of Sonny Bill Williams will keep him out of action for the next six to eight weeks, opening the door for standout winger Rieko Ioane to make a start at second five.


He will partner George Moala in a formidable midfield pairing.

Jonathan Ruru is given a chance to press his starting claims at halfback alongside Stephen Perofeta, who has been promoted to the starting lineup in place of Bryn Gatland.

All Blacks Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Matt Duffie have been given one of their two mandated rest games which allows a first Super start for Jordan Trainor on the right wing and popular North Harbour prop Mike Tamoaieta.

Umaga said the side is determined to get their season back on track.

"We've trained well but we can't give our opponents the sorts of starts we have given this season. We are looking to be a lot more accurate, to protect our own ball much better, get a good platform upfront and be more accurate in defence.

"We had one good game in South Africa but then let ourselves down. At this level of competition, we need to perform for 80 minutes and look to improve with every outing."

The game kicks off at 7.35pm.

Blues: Michael Collins, Jordan Trainor, George Moala, Rieko Ioane, Melani Nanai, Stephen Perofeta, Jonathan Ruru, Akira Ioane, Murphy Taramai, Jerome Kaino, Josh Goodhue, Patrick Tuipulotu, Mike Tamoaieta, James Parsons (c), Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Ross Wright, Sione Mafileo, Jimmy Tupou, Kara Pryor, Sam Nock, Bryn Gatland, TJ Faiane.