The 2012 Super Rugby season may be just a month old but already the dreaded phrase ‘must-win’ has crept into the lexicon as the Blues know only a win will suffice against the Hurricanes on Friday night.
Despite boasting a star studded squad, the Blues have struggled to convert their pre-season promise into competition points, having won just one of their opening four games to sit at the bottom of the New Zealand Conference.
An unprecedented spate of injuries has done much to dent the Blues’ progress, with All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toeava, Anthony Boric and captain Keven Mealamu among a number of players all watching Friday’s match from the grandstand.
Coupled with the suspensions of Luke Braid and Rene Ranger, Lam admitted the player selection cupboard was looking decidedly bare but refused to use that as an excuse.
“We’re right down to the bare bones of our squad and a lot of Wider Training Group guys are being given an opportunity,” Lam said.
“That’s just the nature of this competition and you can go one of two ways, you can sulk about it or you can get on and look at it with excitement that guys are getting a chance and that’s the way we’re approaching it.”
It may be a bit premature to push the panic button just yet with still 12 rounds of the competition remaining, but Lam conceded a win against the Hurricanes was absolutely crucial in getting the Blues’ campaign back on track.
“That’s a pretty fair assessment,” Lam said.
“The attitude has been great, the work ethic and the environment is good and the boys are really working hard. The problem is we’ve got to raise the standard of our performances. Individual errors and discipline have cost us in some games and we know collectively if we start performing as a group we’ll have a much better chance of winning.”
The Blues’ task of defeating a young yet thriving Hurricanes outfit has been made all the more difficult by their limited preparation time. Arriving back in New Zealand late on Sunday night following their tour of South Africa, the Blues have had just one training day and a captain’s run to prepare for Friday’s clash.
However the news is not all grim for the home side, with the Blues welcoming back All Black prop Tony Woodcock to the starting XV which is sure to add plenty of starch to a scrum which struggled to match the physicality of the Stormers last week.
Livewire backs Rudi Wulf and David Raikuna have also overcome injuries to return to action on the wings in a revamped backline featuring former Hurricanes Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu.
It will be the first time Weepu and Nonu have lined up against their old teammates since departing the capital at the end of last year, and while they have been loath to suggest they have a point to prove against their old franchise, they will no doubt be eager to notch up a win.