You might think the last thing the Blues would want after consecutive losses is to face defending champions the Chiefs on their home turf this week, but that’s exactly the sort of challenge head coach Sir John Kirwan hopes will spark his side back into life.
Coming off the bye and in humid conditions in Sydney last week, the Blues looked flat and lethargic against the Waratahs as they surrendered a 24-10 halftime lead to go down 27-30 in the last play of the game.
“We lost another football game rather than being beaten so that’s both a positive and a negative,” Kirwan said.
“I think it’s the type of football game we need to learn how to win so they’re really disappointed in themselves but that’s gone, we’ve got to move on. We’ve got the champions this week so we’re excited about it.”
Kirwan dismissed suggestions there was a sense of ‘here we go again’ from the Blues this season following a horror year in 2012, and said his side needed to rediscover their excitement levels.
“I was just talking with the leaders and we’re really tight and the boys are really happy, we’ve just got to mature on winning games like that and we need a little bit of excitement back,” he said.
“I think it’s fair to say we haven’t been as excited as we were in the first couple of weeks and that’s probably due to worrying a little too much about the result and not staying in process and losing a football game that you should have won.
“They are learnings at the moment but everyone’s happy. We’re excited, we’re heading in the right direction, we’re all completely on the same page so it’s a good place to be.”
Kirwan is relishing the challenge of pitting his young side against the benchmark team in the competition on Saturday night.
“It’s fantastic, it’s the best thing that could happen to us,” he said.
“We know that we’re going to have to be at our best to get near the Chiefs and we need to get down there and get excited and play rugby. We’re not worried about them, we know how good they are but we’ve just got to get out there and play.
“We need to play our game though. You haven’t seen that for a few weeks and that’s what our guys want to show this week, and to do that we’ve got to hang onto the ball so that’s where we’re at, it’s really exciting for us.”
The Blues have suffered a setback following news Charlie Faumuina’s calf injury is worse than first thought.
He was initially expected to be out for around four weeks but scans revealed a more serious tear, meaning the tighthead prop will now be sidelined for at least six to eight weeks.
Veteran All Black hooker Keven Mealamu is also likely to be rested until the match against the Highlanders next week.
After returning to Blues camp last week following an extended break, Kirwan did not want to rush Mealamu back before he was completely ready.
“I’m going to sit down with Kevvie but the likelihood is we should probably leave him out of this week’s game,” Kirwan said.
“If he’s on the bench we have to make sure he can play 80 minutes. You can’t put him on the bench and say we’re going to play you the last 20 minutes because what happens if the hooker gets dinged in the first minute and then we get another calf tear or Kevvie’s not quite ready. He’s a week away so what do we do? We’ve got to put the player first.”
The Blues team to face the Chiefs will be named on Thursday afternoon. The team travels down to Mount Maunganui on Friday, and will face the defending champions at ASB Baypark Stadium on Saturday night (kick-off 7.35pm)