The Blues may be down but head coach Sir John Kirwan insists they’re not out just yet as they still cling onto hopes of making the playoffs.
Currently sitting last in the New Zealand conference and 10th overall, the Blues have a mountain to climb to get themselves into the top six, but with just 10 points separating them and the top placed Crusaders it isn’t insurmountable.
A rousing 37-24 victory over the Hurricanes at Eden Park last week kept the Blues in the hunt, and Kirwan maintains his side can still make a late surge for the playoffs.
ìEveryone in that changing room after the performance [against the Hurricanes] was saying we’re not out of this,î Kirwan said. ìWe needed five points and the boys went out and got them.
ìNo-one in the organisation believes we’re out of it, we still think we can come home strong. It’s a hard ask but every time this rugby team gets put under pressure they really step up and I’m really proud of that.î
However it’s no easy run home by any stretch of the imagination.
After a three week break for the International Test window, the Blues will travel to Perth to take on an ever-improving Western Force outfit before heading home to tackle the Crusaders in Christchurch and finishing the season at Eden Park against back-to-back champions the Chiefs.
The Blues must win all of their remaining games to give themselves a fighting chance of making the playoffs, and given their well documented away record this year it doesn’t instil much confidence.
But with Francis Saili, Charles Piutau and Jackson Willison amongst others all returning from injury, the Blues will be full of vigour and enthusiasm to finish the season with a wet sail.
“Coming into the home straight our next big game is the Force and you guys [the journalists] will be talking about us not winning away and then we’ve got two Kiwi sides to come home, one away to the Crusaders and the Chiefs at home so someone’s going to miss out.”
The Blues have taken this week off to recover and do their own fitness training, and they will reconvene next week to prepare for a match against the Barbarians in Whangarei on Friday.
“We’re playing the Barbarians in Northland and I think it’s really important we play the team that could be playing against the Force because we don’t know how many of our All Blacks guys may be out, for example Kevvie and Ma’a could play all the Test matches and could be relatively dinged up so we’ll go to the Babas in Northland and we’ll play then we’ll take another three days off and we’ll train from there.”
Kirwan revealed he has turned to cross-town basketball team the New Zealand Breakers for advice on how to best prepare for a match in Perth .
“We’ve spoken to the Breakers about the best way to play when you’ve got to fly and have a five hour time difference and I think we kick off at 7.30pm which is midnight here so we’ve spoken to them and it’s best to go late so we’re going to go on the Wednesday and that’s a really big game for us now.”