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Twenty Years in the Making: Blues Aim for Super Rugby Glory

Twenty Years in the Making: Blues Aim for Super Rugby Glory

All BlacksJune 21, 2024

Twenty years of disappointment will ensure the Blues are well prepared for what coach Vern Cotter has called a battle of wills in Saturday's DHL Super Rugby Pacific final at Eden Park.

The three-time winners of the Super Rugby title last won it in 2003. The Blues did when the truncated Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title in 2021.

When taking over as coach of the side after Leon MacDonald moved to the All Blacks' coaching panel, Cotter said the side wanted to get to the final and to win it.

But he was realistic. There was still a job to be done.

"Two good teams are going head-to-head and, unfortunately, one will come off second best.

"It will be intense, and there's a bit of pressure. We've watched them in the last couple of games, and they've lifted intensity in certain parts of the game. It's a final.

"Finals aren't necessarily pretty. It's about a battle of wills, and we have things we want to express. They're a good team, so we expect it to go up a couple of notches from the last time we played them.

"You don't get any prizes for artistic display. You get points for getting over the line and scoring tries."

With both teams benefiting from fast starts in recent games, Cotter said adaptability was crucial if the Blues couldn't achieve that on Saturday.

The @BluesRugbyTeam skipper is built different 😤#SuperRugbyPacific pic.twitter.com/HUxy419uxQ

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) June 20, 2024

"You don't expect to get momentum the whole time, but when you get moments of purchase over the opposition, you try and get the most out of it. When they have momentum, we hang tight until we get it back.

"It may not be at the start but the idea is we finish locked in and together."

Having captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu in the side 'densifies' the pack while also providing a calming influence.

But during earlier injuries he suffered this year, the side had created adaptability, so while he was back, the team wasn't sitting back and thinking they didn't need to do anything more.

"Everyone's focused on bringing the best of themselves for the game.

While his injury seemed bad when first diagnosed, Cotter said the first week was important. At that time, Tuipulotu didn't entertain the idea of playing, but then, at the start of this week, he arrived at the Blues base and said he felt much better.

"He went through a series of tests and got a green light after a pretty robust session on Tuesday. He's ticked all the boxes and he's got his game face on and is ready to go."

Tuipulotu's recovery was not unusual; it had happened before, and he cited the case of former Chiefs lock Craig Clarke doing something similar a decade ago.

"Every individual responds differently to these type of injuries and he's lucky. He's got some well-developed muscles around his thighs and calves and perhaps, after the first week, it settled quickly."

That’s our skip pic.twitter.com/3Tzb6QQK5I

— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) June 19, 2024

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