Blues head south with confidence ahead of Crusaders clash
Sixteen losses in 17 games for the Blues against the Crusaders belies the intensity that always surrounds their games, and they face another tight contest in DHL Super Rugby Pacific action on Saturday in Christchurch.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald said his side felt like they were 'there or thereabouts' against them and had shown that when winning in Christchurch last year.
"Consistency is important for us. We've played some good games and good moments but not stacked it up.
"The challenge against the Crusaders is 80 minutes and we didn't get that right in round four, but we've got confidence. We're going down there to win, we're good enough and this is our opportunity."
After the weather Auckland has experienced this week, acclimatising won't be an issue with the cool temperatures forecast for the game.
"This time of year, down there, it is always dewy and cold. But it's better than what we experienced in Fiji, so the guys aren't too disappointed about what we will face down there.
"It's an exciting week for us. The Crusaders are a big game for us. We're sitting neck and neck on the points table with a few weeks to go. It's also an opportunity to put on a performance going into the playoffs against a top team.
"It's always one of the games I'm excited about and looking forward to. You see it in the players too, and you don't have to bang on the table tops and invoke a bit of passion. It's already there.
The battle of 3️⃣ and 4️⃣!— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 11, 2023
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"I know it means a lot to our guys and the last game we played them, in round four, it was an awesome game as well. Both teams played good rugby and we got pipped at the post and I know that lingers as well."
The Blues had opportunities to win that they hadn't grabbed. However, MacDonald said both teams were better than then, with the Crusaders having fullback Will Jordan back and other players, so that all made for a spicy encounter.
Selections for the game were tough. Leaving out second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was one of them, flanker Akira Ioane was another, although he is named on the bench for his 100th game for the Blues.
"We're confident with what we've picked and the guys that are playing have earned the right through good form."
Harry Plummer has won the midfield role because he had been in good form this year and was a different type of player to Tuivasa-Sheck. Bryce Heem, who has done the job for them in games this year, was also an option.
"We had three players there, and one spot made it pretty tough."
Plummer's combination with first five-eighths Beauden Barrett helped his selection, and he was also a good communicator.
"He can see space well, he's advanced his running game and has become a threat, but also his ability to step into playmaker and really have two games who can pull the strings against a tough defensive line. If you are not able to shift the ball to space you end up running into some big brick walls and he's a bit more advanced at finding that space for us."
Coping with the effective Crusaders' maul was always something they talked about before games against them. MacDonald said it was a big part of their DNA, and they pride themselves on it, and it would be a big part of the game.
Plenty of stories heading into round 12! 📖— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) May 10, 2023
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