All Black stalwart Jerome Kaino will make his first Super Rugby start of the season in the Blues' clash with the Lions on Sunday (NZT).
The 34-year-old, 81-Test Kaino - soon to join French outfit Toulouse - will line up on the blindside in Johannesburg, with Akira Ioane at No.8.
Antonio Kiri Kiri rounds out the loose forward trio.
Elsewhere, Sonny Bill Williams returns to the fold in his customary second five-eighth position, where he'll form a midfield duo with Rieko Ioane.
Livewire Ioane has been moved in from the wing by coach Tana Umaga, enabling a back three of Melani Nanai, Matt Duffie and Michael Collins.
George Moala has not been selected.
In the halves, Bryn Gatland retains his spot over the fit-again Stephen Perofeta, while Sam Nock replaces captain Augustine Pulu at halfback.
James Parsons will captain the side in Pulu's injury-enforced absence.
The Blues last visited the iconic Ellis Park in May 2016, losing 43-5.
"The Lions are a formidable team - we well remember our last time here two years ago and we're keen to put that right," Umaga said.
"They have scored a lot of tries this season off their lineout drive.
"We need to be disciplined and not give them attacking chances from penalties, although at the same time we need to be our usual aggressive selves."
Blues: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Melani Nanai, Bryn Gatland, Sam Nock, Akira Ioane, Antonio Kiri Kiri, Jerome Kaino, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, James Parsons (c), Alex Hodgman.
Reserves: Ross Wright, Pauliasi Manu, Michael Tamoaieta, Scott Scrafton, Jimmy Tupou, Murphy Taramai, Jonathan Ruru, Stephen Perofeta.