Younger brother of All Black set for Blues debut

The Blues have made a number of changes for their round 13 clash with the Highlanders at Eden Park, including two potential debuts off the bench.

23-year-old Kade Banks has earned the No. 23 jersey after impressing for North Harbour in the NPC where he joined the starting XV in Mark Tele’a’s absence. The outside back steps in to help cover the injured Zarn Sullivan.

In the front row, the younger brother of All Black midfielder Quinn Tupaea is also in line for a debut off the bench. 21-year-old Mason Tupaea has been named in the No. 17 jersey and his coach, Vern Cotter, was singing both of the youngsters’ praises ahead of the game.

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“I’ll start with Kade, he’s got great energy around the ball, chases hard, tackles, works his butt off and he’s been behind the scenes working and he gets the call-up,” Cotter told Newstalk ZB. “We need players like that are always tapping on the door and always trying to improve.

“He’s put on a couple of kilos and those are good kilos as well. I think he’s put on four or five kilos since the start of the season, a bit more weight to his speed and dynamic presence.

“And Mason, he’s impressive. He starts his warm-up bench-pressing 150 kilos. That’s his warm up then he goes close to 200. So, amazing strength for a young man, amazing competitor, good head on his shoulders, I like his maturity around the game and his preparation so he gets a crack and then there may be others you never know.”

Mason’s brother Quinn was revealed to have set some records in the gym during the Chiefs preseason earlier this year, although the numbers were never disclosed.

There are clearly some strong genes in the Tupaea family, and time will tell whether Mason can follow in his brother’s footsteps and claim a black jersey.

Other changes for the competition’s best team include a rest for All Blacks Hoskins Sotutu, Patrick Tuipulotu and Mark Tele’a.

“Just around that, those guys get big minutes and that Hurricanes game was very physical,” Cotter said. “So, you gotta gamble, don’t you? Either you keep playing them and then you risk a six-week injury, or you give them a week off and hopefully that’s it and they come back fresh, and they’re ready to go for the end of the season.

“So that’s that’s the choice we made around those players. The high minutes and a number of impacts and contacts and collisions they’ve had, we think that they’re getting close to fatigue and fatigue can lead to stress and injury. So it was about managing that.

“Dalton’s been captain, he captained last year he’s captain a couple of times this year when Patty has been out injured. And he’s a great leader. The leadership is shared between all the players. It’s all about responsibility and they all take responsibility for their own jobs but also the performance of the team so I’m really enjoying the involvement of all these players and Dalton’s been going great guns and I’m really enjoying his input in the performance. I think he’s getting better and better. 

“Akira shifts to No. 8, he gives you a power carry. He is a very abrasive, strong player so it’s nice to have him around the ball.

“Adrian Choat, he finished the game against the Hurricanes so a bit of continuity, he starts. He’s a great defensive player, he’s a warrior around the paddock as well. So with that loose forward trio, hopefully, we can put a bit of pressure on the Highlanders on defence and attack.

“He’s been outstanding and I said to him, I apologize because you’ve been so good at coming off the bench I’ve left you there for a couple of weeks. But he gets a crack, he’s been working in the gym and that’s why he was able to rip that ball away in the last minute against the Hurricanes. And you must remember the finish he did against the Reds as well, running the inside channel and scoring that try. He’s got another profile, it will change our profile slightly and how we play around rucks and feed ball to our backs. Sam’s a great player and he’s a great competitor so it’s great to have him starting again.”

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