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Fijian Drua's attacking threat looms large for Blues

Fijian Drua's attacking threat looms large for Blues

All BlacksJune 7, 2024

Blues' awareness of the Fijian Drua's latent potential ahead of their DHL Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinal in Auckland on Saturday is higher than most.

Coach Vern Cotter's experience as coach of the Fiji Test side is a valuable asset for such an important game and one he used in the Blues' 34-10 opening game win of the competition against the Drua in Whangarei in February.  

Cotter said, "Their objective was to make the quarterfinal, and they nailed it. They put in a good performance [at the weekend] against the Rebels. They did that in a certain way. They're getting better and better. They dug in deep, hung at the start of the game and worked their way to a decent win.

"They're getting better around how they structure their game. They're getting used to the demands of the competition.

"They're a dangerous team. If they turn up, they can trouble anybody.

"It's been a serious start to the week, making sure we nail down some things we think will trouble them. It's been a studious start and we are giving them the utmost respect."

Centre Rieko Ioane returns to the side after initially being out with a concussion and then an injury.

"He wants to be on the field and he's good to have in the team. It gives us that serenity having the experience and age, and speed, and ability to change games. He'll put in a good performance this weekend."

Cotter said Finlay Christie won the starting role at halfback when Taufa Funaki had stiffness in his hamstrings.

Before you were Drua fans, your hearts were all Blue 💙 pic.twitter.com/Vy7RFUgWmN

— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 5, 2024

Harry Plummer returned to the starting role at first five-eighths with Stephen Perofeta at fullback after they had been named in those roles last week, only to shift their positions when Reiko Ioane was forced to withdraw.

Cotter said Plummer was starting in the position for his leadership.

"He's done a great job and he's getting better at it. And having Stevie back in there as well adds to it, having a little voice in backfield. And we know they can change like they did last weekend."

That was part of an adaptive mindset and growing as leaders, the team has employed in the weeks leading into games this year.

Cotter believes the defensive lapses that cost them a vital bonus point last weekend would not recur, although he was sure the side would be tested in unpredictable ways.

"They're going to throw anything and everything, and sometimes, the way they play, you need to adapt.

"It's around initiative, and if you lose it, if something unpredictable happens, they get the gain from it and gain initiative, it's how quickly we get it back."

Captain Patrick Tuipulotu said there had been a quiet lift in intensity this week, and it wasn't something he had to impart. It was more like he had to tone things down. 

Knowing the Drua's capacity for surprise he said they would be watching out for quick taps and throws to the good athletes in their backline.

"We've got to stay on top of our defence, make sure we pretty much chop them and slow down their ruck."

There were lessons in game control from their last-minute concession of a try to the Chiefs last week. They needed composure in key areas, and in the last five minutes, they let themselves down by giving the ball back to the Chiefs, getting penalised, and then not being able to zone in and focus on the last bit of defensive pressure they needed to apply.

They needed to keep attacking for 80 minutes and not get passive at any stage.

The 2024 #SuperRugbyPacific Finals series kicks off this Friday 🏆

Who have you got winning this week? pic.twitter.com/Aijqlqcnjd

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) June 1, 2024

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