AUCKLAND - The struggling Blues are preparing to take the Highlanders on up front as they try to reverse their Super Rugby fortunes in Dunedin on Friday night.
"Match fire with fire" is coach Pat Lam's recipe for combating the southerners' noted intensity at the breakdown.
"You have to be lower, you have to be physical and you have to get into it," he said on Wednesday.
After four straight losses, the Blues are sitting second last on the table.
The Highlanders, who are coming off a bye, are fifth and also second in the New Zealand conference behind competition leaders the Chiefs.
Lam has made two surprise decisions in his starting 15. With Isaia Toeava out for the season and Rudi Wulf nursing a shoulder injury, Hadleigh Parkes has been named at fullback ù a position where he has had a handful of games at club level.
Parkes, primarily a midfield back, made his Super Rugby debut off the bench in the away win over the Bulls in round three and made his first start for the Blues last week, operating on the wing against the Sharks.
Lam believed the reward would outweigh the risk of giving the 24-year old the No.15 jersey.
"One of the things that's impressed us is that he is a 100 per cent man," he said.
With hooker Keven Mealamu also sidelined with a calf complaint, Lam has handed the captaincy to loose forward Luke Braid, who has limited experience as a skipper.