Blues nearing full-strength in time for Super Rugby opener despite issues at first-five

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NZN

Blues boss Tana Umaga expects most of his troops - but perhaps not Stephen Perofeta - to be injury-free by the start of Super Rugby action.

Blues first five eighth Stephen Perofeta during the Blues vs British and Irish Lions match played at Eden Park in Auckland as part of the DHL New Zealand Lions Series 2017. The Blues won 22-16. 
Copyright Photo; Peter Meecham/ www.photosport.nz

Blues first five eighth Stephen Perofeta during the Blues vs British and Irish Lions match played at Eden Park.

Source: Photosport

Prodigious first-five Perofeta fractured his hand in last week's 45-19 pre-season win over the Chiefs and is expected to be out for six weeks.

The injury follows the long-term absence of recruit Otere Black, and leaves just Bryn Gatland and Dan Kirkpatrick as first-five options for the Aucklanders' Super season opener against the Highlanders on February 23.

Kirkpatrick is also currently hurt but likely to be fit and firing imminently.

A host of other Blues players also have niggles, including Michael Collins, Blake Gibson, James Parsons, Jerome Kaino and Scott Scrafton.

Umaga said they were all tracking well for the Super campaign, but they wouldn't be ready to play in this week's Brisbane Tens event.

He also wouldn't look for short-term signings before the season starts.

"She's been pretty big," Umaga said of his injury list.

"A lot of them are on the return, returning this week really, back to the field - hopefully all goes well and we'll be a lot closer to our original squad.

"Some All Blacks have brought some niggles back from where they were and we've just got to take a lay of the land at the moment."

Umaga's All Blacks contingent includes Kaino, as well as the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Rieko Ioane.

He said that, with so many players unavailable, he'd been compelled to look for diamonds in the rough outside of his squad list.

He listed forward Ross Wright as a player who impressed against the Chiefs.

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