The Blues' year started with so much promise.

There was a lot of positive talk around the club, with the return of Ma'a Nonu front and centre.

In the eyes of fans everywhere it had, in theory, set the platform for one of the most damaging starting midfield combinations witnessed in Super Rugby.

Theory is great like that; fuelling a fire of hope and possibility. Reality is much harsher.


The pair have both floated in and out of the starting side this season, with TJ Faiane manning the other midfield role for the season. With both players healthy and, with the Blues out of the running for a spot in the playoffs, likely playing their final Super Rugby matches for the club it would have been the perfect opportunity to give the fans what they want.

Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Photo / Getty Images

However, head coach Leon MacDonald decided otherwise. Williams will make the start alongside Tanielu Tele'a in the midfield when the side meet the Hurricanes in Wellington this weekend, with Nonu set to make his impact felt off the bench later in the game.

MacDonald admitted he had considered fielding the Nonu-Williams pairing, but instead decided to give one of the team's future stars a run in his preferred position.

"You consider all those things when you name a team," MacDonald said. "There have been a few factors around selection: this is the right team for us this weekend, we've got an eye on the future, and we want to respect Sonny and give him a good opportunity to play because he's been working hard in the background.

"Ma'a has carried a massive workload this year. He's been beaten up. He doesn't tell anyone, but he's got a sore body and keeps working for us while Sonny has been on the recovery path. The mix is right and we think you will see both guys play with a lot of energy when they get on the field."

The 37-year-old Nonu has played 931 minutes in 13 appearances for the Blues this year, while Williams has been limited by injuries to five appearances. Williams, who was yet to signal his intentions beyond the 2019 Rugby World Cup Williams, would have preferred to have run out alongside Nonu.

Still in the match-day team, MacDonald didn't think naming him in the reserves was a harsh call on Nonu.

"The big thing for us is we want him to be part of a good night, and a good night is a really good performance. We want to finish this season the right way and I'd love to see him be at the forefront of that with his performance. This is the best way to get that."


Blues team to play Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is: 15. Melani Nanai, 14. Caleb Clarke, 13. Tenielu Tele'a, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Otere Black, 9. Augustine Pulu, 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Blake Gibson (c), 6. Dalton Papalii, 5. Scott Scrafton, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 3. Marcel Renata, 2. James Parsons, 1. Alex Hodgman.

Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Hisa Sasagi, 18. Lua Li, 19. Tom Robinson, 20. Josh Goodhue, 21. Jonathan Ruru, 22. Harry Plummer, 23. Ma'a Nonu.